The U.S. Coast Guard is urging mariners and aviators to retire their analog 121.5 and 243 Mhz emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) and replace them with digital 406 Mhz EPIRBs. Beginning February 1, search and rescue satellites will no longer process the older analog signals and search and rescue agencies will no longer receive the 121.5 Mhz distress signals.
According to Rick Arsenault, a search and rescue specialist at the First Coast Guard District Command Center in Boston, the signal emitted by the 406 EPIRB is 50 times more powerful than the 121.5 Mhz beacon. Additionally, the new beacons can be embedded with GPS, reducing the search area to about 100 yards.
The Coast Guard notes that EPIRB owners are required by law to register their beacons with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Registration will help search and rescue (SAR) personnel to identify the vessel or aircraft for which they’re searching. By accessing the owners contact information, SAR will help resolve confusion as a result of accidental activations. Owners can go online and register their 406 Mhz beacons at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov.