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EPIRBs, PLBs & AIS Units

What is an EPIRB?

 An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or EPIRB is a device that transmits a coded message via satellites and ground stations in order to alert search and rescue services to any emergency. Most EPIRBs now have built in GPS units to accurately transmit your position to rescue services.

 What is a PLB?

 A Personal Locator Beacon, or PLB, is a smaller portable transmitter that sends out a personalised emergency distress signal via satellites and ground stations. These units are ideal for those with smaller watercraft or for walkers and hikers visiting areas away with limited mobile signal.

 What is the difference between an EPIRB & a PLB?

 Both EPIRBs & PLBs transmit messages on the 406 MHz distress frequency via the Sarsat global satellite system. PLBs are more compact personal units which are registered to an individual. The battery of a PLB is designed to transmit the distress signal for a minimum of 24 hours. An EPIRB needs to be registered to the vessel to which it is installed. If it is transferred to a new vessel it will need to be re-registered. The battery on an EPIRB is much bigger than that on a PLB and is designed to transmit the distress signal for a minimum of 48 hours.

 What is an AIS Beacon?

 An AIS Man Overboard device is technically not a beacon as it only transmits a local signal using the Automatic Identification System. This signal will not be received by dedicated search & rescue services and the signal will only be received by vessels that have AIS receiving units within a range of around 5 miles. AIS MOB units are best suited to situations where the MOB can be recovered by the remaining crew of the vessel from which the MOB occurred. An AIS Beacon can also be used alongside an EPIRB or PLB to assist rescue services in pinpointing the casualty once they have arrived to the area of the rescue.