Here's what I think I know, do correct me where I am wrong.
As you are so inclined, you light up whatever flavor of radio distress
beacon you have PLB, ERIRP, whatever. The signal is pick up by a satellite
, which may include GPS
info, and a call is made to a contact list.
Depending on the response to the call, and after a couple more passes of the satellite
, a search is initiated which can include notifying ships in the area as well as dispatching aircraft.
Once an aircraft is in the air, it uses RDF gear
to find a separate signal transmitted from your ELT to home in on your location.
Once I they find you I assume, if they can't pluck you out of the water
, they drop a bigger better liferaft
and a more powerful and longer lasting ELT and a radio
to hold you over until someone else can pick you up.
If they can't find you before you ELT stops transmitting they are back to a search based on last know location which may include your GPS
info if so equipped, either way high fives all around!
Look, I think this is all great but understand I live in a world where it is debatable as to whether my government
can be trusted to respect my privacy or trusted to balance it's checkbook. Asking a slightly jaded Generation X New Yorker to trust his life to an institution is asking a lot.
I think SAR crews are great. I have absolute gratitude to those willing to compromise their own safety
for the sake of others and I certainly have no interest in being trapped in a life raft.
I just don't understand why my naive interest is self reliance is taken to be such an affront to the establishment. Why is it so threatening?