EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) and PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons) are completely self-contained radio transmitters designed for emergency use. When activated, they transmit an internationally recognised distress signal. They are designed to be used when the safety of you, your craft or your crew is endangered and you have no other means of communication
Advantages of a 406 MHz EPIRBs and PLBs over the older analogue EPIRBs include world wide coverage, position location accuracy to within 5 kms and a more stable transmitted signal resulting in faster response time. Most importantly, the addition of a unique digitally coded message provides Search and Rescue authorities with vital information including the country of beacon registration and identification of the vessel in distress thus greatly reducing the incidence of false alerts and unnecessary deployment of valuable rescue resources.
EPIRBs vs PLBs: There are two parts of the 406MHz standard one for EPIRBs and one for PLBs and this results in significant differences. In the marine environment, the differences can mean that the beacons have to be operated differently. Most importantly is that EPIRBs have a minimum continuous operation of 48 hours and float upright allowing them to be tied to something that isn't going to sink and left to float free using the water plane as a reflector to improve the propagation of the signal to the satellites. PLBs on the other hand are only required to operate for a minimum of 24 hours continuously and are not required to float upright meaning that they have to be supported in some way to ensure that the antenna is clear of the water so that the signal can be transmitted. In the maritime market, there is a need for both EPIRBs and PLBs, particularly where Yachting Australia requires boats in category 1 and 2 (Sydney Hobart type races) offshore races to carry an EPIRB and for each of the crew to carry a PLB.
Still confused about the new 406MHz EPIRB/PLBs ? Read all about the new
service at AMSA website, click here