Coast Guard deploys personal EPIRBs

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Each Coast Guard officer employed on ships and small boats in the United States soon will be equipped with personal EPIRB units. The devices, called Fastfind PEPIRBs, are about the size of a handheld radio and are to be attached to a Coast Guardsman's PFD. The units feature 406 MHz signals, which alert shore-based rescue services by polar-orbiting satellites within 90 minutes — identical to standard 406 EPIRBs. The units also are equipped with 121.5 MHz signaling, which enables aircraft to locate a person in the water.

The British company McMurdo Pains Wessex was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard account, and will deliver approximately $2.5 million worth of PEPIRBs over the next five years. The Coast Guard's assistant commandant has pledged to have crews fully equipped within the year.

By Ocean Navigator