Lots of people are misusing these tiny devices. I guess because they are (relatively) cheap, but really if you want to spend time in the wilds, spend some money to get a decent communication system eg either a satellite messenger or a satellite phone – or both.
So many people are pressing the panic button because they have a sniffle or ran out of Oreos occasioning hugely expensive search and rescue operations for them that eventually governments are going to have to charge everyone for the thoughtlessness of the few. Mostly people just want a specific thing eg a helicopter pick-up from a specific point (which will be an extra for a search and rescue operation) but which is relatively inexpensive (say $1-2,000) and ought to come out of your own pocket. Often such a pick-up is non-urgent as well.
Val from Hauroko Tours related to me an example from a few years back. He had dropped a group off at the Hauroko Hut to begin the Dusky Track (See: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/from-dawn-to-dusky/). Later the very same day they hit their Epirb. Within an hour of starting out on the Dusky, they found the Hauroko Burn flooded. In my opinion they could have proceeded, but in any case it would likely have gone down by the next day (and they had a lovely dry hut to stay in whilst waiting it out).
Any walk on the Dusky is likely to encounter flooding/ waiting etc. Such is wilderness experience. Also, Val would have been back in three days, so they only had to wait. Clearly they had food for 8-10 days if walking the Dusky. Instead they hit the Epirb occasioning an urgent and expensive search which in my opinion they should have been charged for! Such ‘Crying Wolf’ behaviour is likely to cause the authorities to become less interested in launching into such wasteful exercises. The public purse is not infinite.
PS: Over reliance on electronic knick-knacks is problematic at best. before folks venture into the wild, they ought first have properly equipped themselves with a functioning set of the equipment they were born with: brain, eyes, ears, hand feet, back etc. The first of these needs some training. I will be posting some ideas about this soon, but in the meantime you might review this