Updated: May 13
In an emergency, activating your vessel's EPIRB is the most certain method of summoning help. But, have you ever wondered what happens if you flip the switch? Wonder no more. The U.S. Coast Guard has released, Anatomy of SAR Case: EPIRBs. The two and a half-minute video explains how the Coast Guard responds to the distress signal, using an actual SAR case as an example.
This past November, a crew member on the sailboat, Marie Elena, suffered an apparent heart attack. The boat was 270 NM off Cape Hatteras and the Coast Guard was able to locate and effect a medical evacuation of the stricken sailor, in no small part, because the boat was equipped with an EPRIB. The Coast Guard wants you to know how important it is to register your EPIRB. One reason that the rescue went smoothly is that Coast Guard responders were able to access the registration information to learn the identity of the boat and other information useful in a search and rescue operation. The Federal Communications Commission requires all EPIRB owners to register their beacons with NOAA and keep the registration information up-to-date.
However, unregistered EPIRBS are a real problem. “We handle EPIRB alerts with a bias for action,” said Lt. Daniel Dunn, a command duty officer in the Fifth Coast Guard District’s command center. “We have to treat them as actual distress calls until we can prove otherwise.” If the Coast Guard receives an EPIRB alert and can't trace it to the owner due to missing or outdated registration information, they must launch aircraft and boat crews, at a cost of many thousands of dollars.
According to the video release, "Coast Guard personnel were only able to contact 163 of the more than 700 EPIRB owners to determine the cause of the false alerts. The other individuals had not registered their beacons, not updated their registration information, or had disposed of them improperly."
If your unregistered beacon activates, the FCC can prosecute you based on evidence provided by the Coast Guard and you can be fined up to $10,000. You can register your EPIRB at http://beaconregistration.noaa.gov/.