PMR’s Statement on MRU’s and PLB’s

Below is PMR’s position on MRU’s and PLB’s.  We also encourage you to read:

Portland Mountain Rescue’s (PMR) mission is to save lives through rescue and mountain safety education. For the past 30 years, PMR has been readily available to search for lost backcountry travelers, assist injured climbers, and provide other ‘safety-net’ services for outdoor enthusiasts who have made a miscalculation about mountain conditions or had an accident. Recent rescue missions have attracted national headlines and inspired some members of the Oregon State Legislature to sponsor House Bill 2509 that would require climbers, on Mount Hood, to carry a two-way device (cell-phone or walkie-talkie) and a Mountain Locator Unit (MLU) / Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) if climbing over 10,000 feet.

House Bill 2509 has generated much discussion in the mountaineering and mountain rescue communities alike. Many of these organizations believe that the focus of the legislation is somewhat misguided. Safe mountaineering requires skill, planning, humility and common sense; and many feel that requiring the use of MLUs/PLBs will diminish the value for learning the skills required to travel safely in the backcountry or above timberline.

PMR agrees that MLUs/PLBs can make it easier to locate lost individuals in some situations and we would prefer that more parties carry them. However, we believe the emphasis should be on the front-end of a climber’s experience in the outdoors: education. As part of that education process an aspiring climber should become familiar with the use of a map and compass, global positioning systems (GPS), MLU/PLB, a cell-phone or other devices that could assist in finding one’s location.

PMR foresees three potential and unfortunate outcomes if House Bill 2509 were to pass:
1. Devalues safety education – By providing climbers with a false sense of security we have devalued the motivation to develop the proper safe traveling skills and planning for unexpected situations, thus leading to more rescues.
2. More danger for rescuers – It will place volunteer rescuers in more danger by fostering an unrealistic expectation that carrying government-mandated equipment entitles climbers to rescue regardless of unsafe conditions.
3. Delayed rescue calls – Search and rescue experts indicate that if penalties exist for stranded or injured climbers, who do not carry an MLU/PLB, they often delay calling. This results in further danger for the stranded or injured party and the rescuers alike.

PMR believes the emphasis should be on education that MLUs/PLBs are available for climbers to use, along with other navigational devices, instead of misguiding the public by mandating those devices as the “silver bullet” to address an undefined problem.