Boaters can ensure their safety when far off shore by having a GPS-enabled Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) aboard from LRSE. These devices, which are lightweight, compact and easy to use, are mandatory to carry on every ship and can instantly summon help and provide rescuers with precise location information. An EPIRB is a secondary means of distress alerting which comes later in the hierarchy of alerting search and rescue services (SAR) authorities in case of a distress.

EPIRBs are ideal for voyages where traditional communications are spotty. Once activated, either manually or automatically by submersion in water, 406 MHz GPS-enabled EPIRBs broadcast a repeating SOS signal with integrated GPS location from virtually any point for 48 continuous hours. The signal is received by satellites which identify the position on a specified band to locate a lifeboat, life raft, ship or people in distress within a few hundred yards in mere minutes. Search and rescue personnel are then contacted and know exactly where to look.

How Does An EPIRB Work?

The device contains two radio transmitters each operating at 406 MHz, the standard international frequency typically signalling distress and is synchronised with a GOES weather satellite going around the earth in a geosynchronous orbit. An EPIRB transmits signals to the satellite which consists of an encrypted identification number that holds information such as the ship’s identification, date of the event, the nature of distress and chiefly, the position. A UIN is a Unique Identifier Number that is programmed into each beacon at the factory and consists of 15 digit series of letters and numbers that make up the unique identity of the beacon.

The LUT (Local User Terminal) calculates the position using Doppler Shift (the change in frequency or wavelength of a wave) and passes on the message to the MRCC (Mission Rescue Coordination Centre), who then is responsible for the SAR ops and oversees the execution of the rescue mission. A signal 406MHz is treated as an emergency signal as per international standards and helps in locating the transmitter up to 3 miles away. If an emitter transmits signals of 121.5 MHz, the rescuer can locate at a distance of 15 miles. The EPIRB must be registered and the accuracy could be magnified if an EPIRB also contains a GPS receiver.

PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons)

An EPIRB is registered to a vessel, whereas a PLB is registered to an individual. PLBs are basically EPIRBs and are used to indicate distress for an individual not in the proximity of emergency services. PLBs work in the same as EPIRBS and transmit on the COSPAS SARSAT satellite system in the 406.025 MHz frequency. PLBs are much smaller in size as compared to an EPIRB and work all across the world, at sea as well as on land. Once activated, PLBs transmit for a minimum of 24 hours whereas the battery life on an EPIRB is at least double with a minimum of 48 hours.

How Can You Get One?

The EPIRB is one of the most important emergency equipments available onboard in the case of a distress. Their care, testing and maintenance must be given considerable time in order to ensure that they function at their optimum level when any emergency situation arises. It’s important to only purchase and service your EPIRB and PLB from professionals like LRSE, whose team is made up of experts in marine safety and survival equipment that are factory-trained and certified in the latest national, international, industry and manufacturer regulations in one of the largest U.S. Coast Guard approved servicing facilities in the country.