Atlantic Boat and Marine News and Information
Analog EPIRBs No Longer Heard
CHARLESTON, SC (01/08/09) --

If you own an older EPIRB (Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon) that transmits only an analog signal (121.5 or 243 MHz), it will no longer be heard by search and rescue satellites after January 31, 2009. You should ensure your EPIRB transmits a digital signal (406 MHz) in order for it to be received by the Coast Guard and other search and rescue personnel after this date.

Note all 406 MHz beacons do contain a low powered homing signal that transmits on 121.5 MHz. This signal doesn't reach the satellites, but the lower frequency allows search and rescue teams to home-in on the beacon once they are in close range. 406 MHz EPIRBs have been used successfully for over 15 years now. They are 50 times more powerful than the old beacons and are much more accurate in pin-pointing the signal location.

Because of the digital nature of 406 MHz beacons, every beacon in the world has a unique ID encoded in its signal. As long as the beacon is registered (which is required by U.S. law), search and rescue forces can quickly confirm that the distress is real. The signal also provides important and specific information about the vessel and beacon owner.

When an EPIRB is activated, a signal is transmitted to search and rescue satellites. This alert is then relayed to a network of ground stations. If the signal originates in US waters, the alert is sent to the US Mission Control Center (USMCC) operated by NOAA. The USMCC processes the alert and then distributes it to a USCG Rescue Coordination Center depending on the location of the signal. All of this can happen in mere minutes after a beacon is activated.

Remember to register your 406 MHz beacon at Registration is free, easy, and is mandatory. You can include and update important information anytime such as emergency contact numbers, a description of your vessel, a person’s medical condition, or even a simplified float plan.

If you do not own an EPIRB and spend any time at all outside protected waters, you should seriously consider purchasing one. An EPIRB can quite literally save your life.

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