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Personal locator beacons could help lead to lost hikers rescues

PHOENIX — Several hiking incidents have turned tragic in the Valley in recent days.

Hiking experts said they might have turned out differently if the hikers had a personal locator beacon with them.

The handheld devices have been available in the United States since 2003. Their five-watt transmitters send a personalized emergency distress signal to a satellite, which then relays the message to local emergency crews.

“P-L-Bs have been around for a long time. It’s really a good piece of equipment. It helps take that person who gets lost or disoriented and gives them a chance to be found in a timely manner,” said Dale Stewart, owner of the Arizona Hiking Shack in Phoenix.

His shop doesn’t sell the devices. Stewart said most of his customers hike within the Phoenix area, and that a fully charged cellphone is sufficient for a communication device to call for help.

The store also advised people to be fully prepared with equipment including a flashlight and at least three gallons of water.

But Stewart thinks “having a P-L-B is certainly not bad. You can certainly fire it off in the city. There’s a lot of municipals that are prepared and capable of finding you from your cellphone or a PLB.”

The devices are available on the Internet and at major camping and big box stores. Prices online ranged from around $99 to $375.