Emergency beacon hoax angers police air wing

THE Victoria Police Air Wing has branded a Mount Clear emergency hoax as a nuisance that could have potentially diverted services away from other life-saving scenarios.

The Air Wing flew to Ballarat on Wednesday after it was reported that an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon had been sending out distress calls to planes and satellites since Sunday.

Services found the EPIRB stashed in a drain at a Mount Clear oval, near the cricket club, and disarmed it just after noon.

Air Wing Leading Senior Constable Damien Simmons said it was an annoyance for his squad.

“It means we’re tied up for a day, just because of a nuisance like this,” he said. 

Leading Senior Constable Simmons said his team responded to hoax call-outs about once a month, which were usually done by people living close by who then “look out for our response”. 

A Victoria Police spokeswoman would not release the cost of the operation, which involved three members of the air wing team and two Ballarat police units. 

Air wing officers said planes flying over Ballarat had heard the signal since Sunday. 

A spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the consequences of beacons turned on for no reason could be serious, diverting emergency services from situations where they could save lives. 

Following a change in the EPIRB system in 2009, 121.5 MHz beacons devices are obsolete.

AMSA recommends people do not throw them out in case they fall into the wrong hand or go off accidentally. 

alex.hamer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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