Registering your GPS beacon makes you easier to find

An emergency distress beacon could be the best protection for someone in trouble in the bush or on the water, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) says.

Beacons equipped with GPS could significantly speed up the rescue of people in distress, centre operational support manager Rodney Bracefield said.

''They really do take the search out of search and rescue, but the numbers show that registering your beacon is a key part of the process,'' Mr Bracefield said.

''It's a legal requirement and it's free, and this enables the RCCNZ to call emergency contacts who can provide valuable information about a trip.''

Of the 307 beacons activated in New Zealand's search and rescue region in 2013, only 42%, or 127, were used in distress situations.

The other 58% were attributed to false alerts or inadvertent activations.

''If the beacon is registered, the first call we make is to the emergency contact to find out if the beacon is being used by somebody, or it's an accidental activation,'' Mr Bracefield said.

''Where a beacon is not registered, all alerts must be followed up, involving emergency response services and personnel that may be diverted from an actual emergency.''

• There are an estimated 12,000 unregistered 406MHz beacons in New Zealand - about 30% of the total. Registration is free, a legal requirement, and can be completed online at www.beacons.org.nz.