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GPS Setup For Helicopter Rescues in New Zealand

I needed to use my GPS on a trail ride to log a waypoint when a rider came off his bike, hit a post, was injured and required assistance. For interest sake I had a chat with Stu from Westpac Rescue afterwards to make sure we had our ducks in a row as my GPS was set at factory settings and I gave them the Northings and Eastings which they then converted for their system to navigate too.

The New Zealand Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service will accept whatever coordinates / waypoints you can give them however they have to use a calculator on some systems to convert it into something useful for them, obviously this is not ideal as you can end up with errors which could see the Helicopter going to the wrong spot.

After speaking with Stu he said their preferred units are Degrees, Minutes, Decimal Minutes as opposed to Degrees, minutes, seconds and True North is preferred as opposed to Magnetic North. These are what the icon letters stand for:

  • h = Hemisphere (North, South, East, or West )
  • d = Degree
  • m = Minute
  • s = Second
  • hddd.ddddd° is Decimal Degrees Format
  • hddd° mm.mmm' is Degrees, Minutes, Decimal Minutes Format
  • hddd° mm' ss.s" is Degrees, Minutes, Seconds Format

Below are instructions to setup your GPS for the format that the New Zealand Westpac Helicopter prefer. The example here uses a Garmin 64s. 

From any screen press the Menu button twice in quick succession.
From the screen that appears, navigate to Setup and click on the Enter button.
From the screen that appears, navigate to Position Format and click on the Enter button.
From the screen that appears, navigate to Position Format and click on the Enter button. Using the up/down toggle button, search the list until you highlight hddd° mm.mmm' and then click on the Enter button.
After clicking on the Enter button, the list will collapse and your GPS should look like this with hddd° mm.mmm' selected. This is EXACTLY how the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service has advised they want it.
For the next step, click on the Quit button once.
From the screen that appears, navigate to Heading and click on the Enter button.
Confirm that the value is True. If it is not True, click on the Enter button, highlight True from the list and then click on the Enter button. This is EXACTLY how the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service has advised they want it.

Obviously different GPS units will have different menus but the end goal is to have the Position Format set to hddd° mm.mmm' and the Heading set to True North.

Using a GPS to assist an injured rider is not something we want to do, but if we do need to do it, it is important that you have your GPS set up correctly so your riding buddies get the help they need in the quickest possible time. 

Motomox
Author of this article: Motomox
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