EPIRB and PLB Registration

Beacon-Registration

If you own an EPIRB or PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) you need to register the device. In the United States NOAA is the agency that keeps the registration database. After you have registered the beacon, NOAA will send you a Proof Of Registration like the one shown above and it should be affixed to your device.

The Proof Of Registration shows the registration expiry date, the Hexadecimal (HEX) ID of the beacon (the ADCD…. number) and in the case of an EPIRB the vessel name, PLB registrations show the owners name.

Why does the registration expire? NOAA wants to make sure that the data is current so they require you to update it every 2 years. The registration expiry IS NOT the same as the battery expiry. That information is printed on the beacon by the manufacturer and is not part of the NOAA registration process.

So how do you register your unit? There are 3 ways but the easiest (and since you are reading this I assume you like to do things online) is by going to the Beacon Registration web site, setting up an account and filling out a form. You can also fill out the form that should have come with your new unit and either FAX or mail it to NOAA. If you do this online there is absolutely no cost, by FAX just the cost of a fax call and by mail the cost of a first class stamp. There is no fee for registration with NOAA!

If you have an EPIRB and your vessel is registered in Canada, you need to have the unit programmed for Canada and you need to register it with Canadian authorities. Every country is required to maintain their own database, although a few have agreements with others to do the work for them. The internet will quickly lead you to your countries’ site.

What does registering the unit get you? Better response should you need to activate it. That alone is worth the time it takes to do the registration. For commercial vessels there is a USCG requirement that one must register their beacon, failure to do so would result in a trip back to the dock.

Tacoma mushroom hunters could have used a PLB

The Tacoma News Tribune just had an article about two men who got lost while hunting mushrooms.  Fortunately they had enough supplies to survive a night in the woods. Our days are getting shorter and the nights colder, pretty soon spending a night outdoors will be difficult without good gear.

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

If you are going out in the woods consider adding an Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) to your kit. Weighing in a bit over 4 ounces it will not slow you down (or reduce the number of mushrooms you can harvest). It is a good piece of gear if you are backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, or even driving  during the winter.

There is no annual charge involved with the rescueME PLB. $249.00 (current price as of October 2014) and a seven year life it works out to $35.58 per year or about 10 cents per day. Truly an affordable piece of safety equipment.panduan android

PLB’s work using a satellite system, owned and operated by governments and provide world wide coverage. You don’t have to worry about cell coverage, as long as you can see the sky, it will work. If you want to get rescued, this is the piece of equipment you want in your hands.

Where was the EPIRB?

Two fishermen spent the better part of a day in their life raft after their lobster boat sank. Lucky, you bet, but where was their EPIRB? Most commercial fishing vessels are required to carry an EPIRB but in the report from Maine’s Department of Natural Resources there is no mention of one being deployed. I am sure we will hear more but my guess is that the crew were not able to grab the beacon prior to abandoning the vessel. If the water was not deep enough the EPIRB would not have self-deployed.

This shows why it is important to have an EPIRB or PLB packed in your life raft. PLB’s make the most sense, they are small and will pack in any raft and costing less than $250.00, very affordable. Add one the next time you have your life raft serviced.

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Another person saved by the rescueME PLB

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

A trout fisherman in New Zealand was rescued after falling and activating his rescueME PLB. Complete details are on the BMY web site.

Once again the compact size and light weight make the rescueME the perfect PLB to carry on your person. We have sold units to bicyclists, back country runners, hikers and hunters who selected this unit because of its size and reliability.

Emergency Signalling Options

Boat US just published an article in their Seaworthy magazine titled “Emergency Signalling Options”. While the majority of the article provides good information there are several discrepancies in the EPIRB and PLB sections (the only sections I am technically knowledgeable enough to comment on).

First to the ‘pros’ of EPIRBs:

  • I agree with what Boat US says.

‘Cons’ of EPIRBs:

  • Boat US states that “EPIRBs can not be taken from vessel to vessel. They must be registered to a specific vessel, so you can’t legitimately use one unit for multiple vessels”. With the online registration process you can change the vessel information for a beacon as long as it is done 24 hours prior to sailing. While this is not something you can or should do on a daily basis plenty of vessel operators do move from vessel to vessel and change the registration information.
  • The cost figures stated are inflated. I sell the GME brand and the least expensive Category 2 model is $449.00 and the most expensive Category 1 unit with GPS is $765.00.

‘Pros’ of PLBs:sinopsis film

  • Boat US implies that PLBs are a Crew Overboard location device. The vast majority of vessels do not have the capability to receive the 121.5 MHz homing beacon that a PLB transmits. If you are considering to use a PLB in this manner you must deal with your onboard equipment. There are better devices such as the Kannad R-10 AIS Survivor Recovery System which utilize electronics you probably already own.

‘Cons’ of PLBs:

  • Boat US says “not only do they suffer from the same limited-data constraints of the EPIRB, they actually transmit even less data, since they don’t include vessel information.”  Sorry to say this is flat out incorrect. EPIRBs do not transmit vessel information, ELTs (the aircraft version) do not transmit aircraft information, and PLBs do not transmit personal information. What they all transmit is a set of unique identifying information. In the United States that is the Country Code and a serial number. When a signal is received, SAR staff know which countries data base contains the full data and turn to that for their information. When one registers an EPIRB or PLB there is a field for “additional information”, so with a PLB it is possible to enter the data about your vessel should you so desire.
  • Boat US missed the biggest ‘con’ regarding PLBs in marine use. They are not required to float! Some units do but they are not the tiny form factor ones popular in most stores. Others come with a flotation pouch and some require you to purchase a device to keep the PLB afloat. Even the ones that float, will not float with the antenna out of the water like an EPIRB will.
  • The statement that “they have half the guaranteed battery life” is misleading. There is no guarantee on how long either device will work. There are standards the units must be designed to and tested against. For and EPIRB it is transmitting for a minimum of 48 hours at -20 degrees, PLBs must transmit for 24 hours at the same cold temperature. Depending on the age of the battery pack and the operating temperature you will see major differences from the design standard.

EPIRBs and PLBs are the correct choice for your primary life saving package. Even if you buy a new PLB rather than having the battery replaced the cost works out to $3.56 per month.  A top end EPIRB works out to $13.41 per month and that includes replacing the hydrostatic release every two years. It is pretty inexpensive insurance for a system that has been proven to save lives.

Sinking off of Florida

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a friend whose brother was going to take a small boat from Miami to Bimini Island. He did not have an EPIRB and I was asked if we rented them. Since I don’t rent EPIRB’s I offered to loan my own PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), something I normally don’t do but it seemed right.

To make a long story short (here is the long story) the boat sank and the two occupants found themselves in the water. The PLB did its job and got the Coast Guard on site to make a helicopter rescue and the pair are now back on dry land enjoying the Ft. Lauderdale boat show.

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

We all learned from this disaster. The NOAA web site allowed me to change all the registration information when the PLB left my shop so the emergency calls went to the right people, not mine. The change was simple and only took a minute, registering your beacon online is the way to go. I also learned to be a bit more careful when loaning equipment and provide the proper accessories for the application. My beacon lives in my Camelback for bike riding. I cut the lanyard short and don’t have the flotation pouch installed (and hope I never need it when bike riding) just to make it a bit lighter and not get tangled up in everything.

Teaching the prospective user the proper operation is also importing. While I provided a demonstration I did not make the extra step to force the user to demonstrate his knowledge. We all learn differently, some by watching, some by reading and others by doing. I allowed for watching but not reading or doing.

Shakespeare said “all’s well that ends well” and I guess that applies here but with a little more thought the ending might have been a bit better.

EPIRB or PLB?

Boaters ask me if they should purchase an EPIRB or PLB. In the past I have gone through the technical differences between the two beacons without highlighting the one important difference. Then I received an email from an individual who I had loaned my personal PLB and actually had to use it when his boat sank. His message said that at 10:30 the boat sank and they turned the beacon on. At 11:00 they remembered to ‘pull the antenna out which they had forgotten about’. The USCG did not receive notification of their distress until after the antenna had been deployed. At 12:00 they saw the Coast Guard helicopter that had been deployed to rescue them. The great news is they survived the ordeal but as with most disasters there are things we can learn.

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

The main thing I learned is the most important difference between and EPIRB’s and PLB’s. With an EPIRB when you put it in the water (after taking it out of its bracket) it starts transmitting. There are no other steps and the antenna is already deployed.

GME EPIRB

When we get in high stress situations it is easy to forget things. The military trains its troops until actions become second nature but we don’t have the time or patience to do that for all of our safety equipment. Simplicity becomes the key and in this case and EPIRB would have shaved 30 minutes off of the rescue time. If this sinking had happened in cold water, 30 minutes could be the difference between life and death.

From now on when a boating customer asks if they should purchase an EPIRB or PLB, my answer is going to be an EPIRB.

Personal Locator Beacons and bicycling

The other day I was out riding my bike with my buddy Ed. He is one of those guys who can (and does) talk with everyone which over the years has made for some interesting rides. It was one of those typical Northwest days, grey and damp and we were climbing a fire road in Capitol Forest looking for an area that had a recent fire. We were passed by a number of four wheel drive trucks and of course Ed had to find out what they were doing. It turned out that one guy was lost the previous day and this group was on a search and rescue mission. We were told to look out for the lost guy and call 911 should we find him.

Once we got to the top of the hill two motorcycles came along, OK they also had riders. They were lost and Ed got them pointed in the right direction and made sure they had gas (afterwards we wondered what we would have done if they didn’t have gas since one hardly carries that on your bicycle) and sent them on their way.

All this got me thinking, what would happen if I was out in the middle of nowhere and got turned around, injured or came across someone in need of help. Would my cell phone be enough to suffice? It has GPS and downloaded maps so I should be able to find my way home but what if I am hurt? After talking with my wife, we decided that I should carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

The Ocean Signal version only weighs 4.1 ounces which is less than many multi-tools that we pack around. This unit provides world-wide coverage, does not have an annual service contract and works using a dedicated government owned an operated satellite system. Best of all it connects directly to search and rescue. Somehow this seems like a reasonable addition to my Camelback.

 

Of course we sell these units. Full information on the Ocean Signal PLB is on our web site. The unit has a 7 year battery and 7 year warranty so the cost works out to $3.56 per month, about the same as a small latte. Then again if I skip one latte per month I would lose more weight than the 4.1 ounces I have added to my gear.

Pacific Marine Expo 2012

Pacific Marine Expo has come and gone for 2012. It was strange having it Tuesday-Thursday rather than its normal Thursday-Saturday but it seemed to work. As always this is a show where one gets to see ‘old’ friends and customers and check out what is new in the industry.

Sorry to say but there is not much to report on the new equipment front. The marine safety industry is still in consolidation mode and it seems that the remaining manufacturers are spending their time dealing with all of the aquisitions rather than developing new items to sell. There was some talk about a new Personal Locator Beacon with AIS for use in crew overboard situations. This would be a great piece of equipment allowing a victim to alert both Search and Rescue and vessels in his vicinity. As I learn more I will keep everyone advised.