Trampers on Hump Ridge track, Fiordland
Image: Tareen Ellis | ©


For anyone heading outdoors, a registered distress beacon is the lifeline that can summon help to your location in a life-threatening situation.

What is a beacon?

A distress beacon is a small, lightweight device. You raise the aerial, push a button and it transmits a signal via satellites to tell rescuers you need assistance.

In New Zealand, Rescue Coordination Centre NZ responds to all beacon activations. They work quickly to find out as many details as they can about who set off the beacon and promptly send search and rescue teams to assist.

Types of beacons include:

  • PLBs - Personal Locator Beacons for use on land and during recreational activities
  • EPIRBs - Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons for use in boats and commercial vessels
  • ELTs - Emergency Locator Transmitters for use in aircraft.

See AdventureSmart website for more information about beacons

Why should you take one?

A distress beacon lets you instantly signal for help and they work almost anywhere in the world.

The beacon shows rescuers your approximate location, taking the ‘search’ out of search and rescue. The sooner rescuers can help you, the more likely you are to survive.

Hire or buy

Distress beacons are widely used in New Zealand with over 100,000 in circulation.

Beacons cost between $300-$500 – a small price to pay to save your life.

Registering your beacon is fast, easy and free. It’s also required by law. Registration provides searchers with essential information that could save your life. Once registered there are no ongoing subscription fees.

Register your beacon

Hiring is an affordable option if you don’t want to buy. There are hire outlets throughout New Zealand. 

Find a hire place near you 

Call for help early

If you or someone else is in a life-threatening situation, set your beacon off. Situations can deteriorate rapidly. The sooner you activate it, the faster help can be sent to your location.

If you are unsure about when to activate the beacon, it is better to activate it and get help. 

Beacon disposal

Old or obsolete beacons need to be disposed of carefully to ensure that they do not get activated accidentally. Return your beacon to:

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