More proof, as if anyone still needed it, that EPIRBs and personal locator beacons (PLBs) work to save lives offshore. In three days in July, the Coast Guard rescued 12 people off three different boats that were at least 20 miles offshore. One of them was 150 miles offshore. All three vessels had boaters on board who were equipped with PLBs. Relying on a cell phone or VHF radio is not a good idea at those distances offshore. The safest approach is to have at least one EPIRB or PLB on board.
From the press release: During the course of three days, the U.S. Coast Guard
(USCG) rescued 12 people from three disabled boats in Florida and Georgia.
All were saved as a result of Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) alerting
authorities to their distress and location.
The good news is these rescues had happy endings.
The same cannot be said about a Florida boating accident five months earlier
that ended tragically for two NFL football players and a friend who did not
have a satellite-detectable emergency locator beacon. After days of an
extensive search in heavy seas (230 combined hours of Coast Guard aircraft,
cutters and motor lifeboats) only one survivor was found clinging to the
up-ended boat. The other three are presumed lost.
According to cost estimates, the search for the four missing fishermen
totaled a staggering $1.6 million.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Cindy Beckert said the USCG cannot emphasize
enough the importance of having a registered EPIRB or PLB on board when
boating. “The beacons really help with rescues. They shorten our response
time and we go right to those in distress. Beacons are valuable time savers
that save us from searching over wide areas. We know exactly where to go.
Everyone should have one,” Petty Officer Beckert said.
In the recent rescues, all three boats were at least 20 miles off the coasts
of north Florida and southern Georgia. Their extensive distance from shore
limited communication methods, like cell phones or VHF radios. One boater,
who was 150 miles east of Brunswick, Ga., had a satellite phone that did not
In each emergency, the boaters activated their PLBs as signaling devices of
last resort after all methods of self-rescue were exhausted. In all three
rescues, the beacon’s signal enabled the USCG SAR crews to pinpoint the
survivors’ exact latitude and longitude positions and arrive on scene within
“Experienced mariners know the value of a well maintained vessel but they
also know it does not take much to ruin a day on the water either. Not only
can an EPIRB or a PLB alert the Coast Guard that you are in need of rescue,
it can also lead them to you,” said Chris Wahler, marketing director for ACR
Electronics, Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based manufacturer, which
introduced PLB products to the U.S. in 2003.
Below are brief recaps of the recent rescues:
* On June 27, six people were recovered at 3:30 p.m. from a disabled 38-foot
boat, Holler Back, 20 miles northeast of Daytona Beach, Fla. The USCG towed
the vessel to shore. No reports of injury.
* On June 28 shortly after midnight, three men fishing 20 miles east of St.
Mary’s, Ga. were thrown into the water when their 23-foot fishing boat
capsized. Two men were able to climb onto the overturned hull; one remained
in the water. A USCG helicopter hoisted the survivor from the water and a
USCG motor lifeboat crew rescued the men from atop the vessel. The survivors
were in good condition.
* On June 29, the USCG received a satellite phone call that the 37-foot
vessel Cheeky 2 had engine failure 150 miles offshore. Due to limited
communication, the boat’s crew activated their ResQFix 406 GPS PLB. A Coast
Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane used the beacon’s signal to locate the boat.
A nearby USCG cutter transferred the boaters aboard and a second USCG cutter
towed the vessel to shore. No injuries reported.
EPIRBs and PLBs transmit signals on internationally recognized distress
frequencies. The 406 MHz signal is monitored by NOAA (National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration), and the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided
Tracking System (SARSAT) detects and locates distress signals. GPS
coordinates greatly assist search and rescue crews, and in the event GPS
isnÂ¹t acquired, position can be calculated through Doppler Shift as a
All three of the PLBs activated were ACR Electronics’ beacons — an AquaFix
406 GPS and two ResQFix 406 GPS PLBs.
NOAA has reported that in 2008, COSPAS-SARSAT assisted in the rescue of 203
people in 65 incidents at sea. Worldwide, the COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz
satellite system, which is celebrating 26 years of operation, is credited
with rescuing more than 24,500 people since the programÂ¹s inception in 1982.
Of that number, more than 6,110 persons were rescued in the U.S.
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