Emergency Beacons for Boats
Transmitting the Location Can Save Your Life – the Importance of Emergency Beacons
One a while you may read some news about MOB situations (i.e. man-overboard) that had caused damages and/or death of sailors. MOB situations are the number one in the list of ‘death causes’ when it comes to sailing. There are many sea dogs that lose their lives because of falling overboard — and not being able to alert the crew and ask for help. A MOB situation may be prevented if the right safety equipment is used and the crew is educated. You and your team must be aware of all dangers and be prepared for acting up. Some of the accidents that cause a sailor to lose their life would never happen if the crew was alerted.
However, in MOB situations the person who is fallen overboard may have a hard time trying to stay on the surface of the water while trying to breathe; so, it’s not rational to expect them to scream for help! (That’s not possible in most cases). But the question is that: if a man-overboard can’t ask for help and inform others about the MOB, how would others find out about it? Well, I know that small boats don’t carry much crew so it wouldn’t be hard for them to keep track of each other. But when it comes to large sailboats having hundreds of crew members all over the board, it won’t be possible to make sure everyone is still on board with verbal communication and/or observation.
You Must Have the Right Equipment!
Some equipment is always necessary (even vital) to make sure that everything is fine and everyone is A-OK on board. Life jackets, for instance, are a must-have throughout the sailing and there’s no excuse for not wearing it on the board. If you’re the captain and/or the decision maker, check your crew regularly and make sure that all are wearing their PFDs throughout the day. Some sea dogs complain about the weight of Life Jackets and claim to be bounded and not able to move quickly when wearing one. However, that’s just an excuse so don’t fall for that! There are some professionally designed and produced Life Jackets that weight next to nothing and are compatible with intense activities.
You don’t need to be reminded that humans can’t breathe in water and don’t have gills, right? I’m sure you would call me stupid if I were to try breathing underwater. (Because it IS an act of stupidity!). So, whatever you do, just don’t sail without wearing a Life Jacket; cause it would be equal to an attempt to breathe underwater! Just think about its name… A “Life Jacket”. The first part is an attempt to emphasize its importance. When you find yourself in the middle of a MOB situation, a Life Jacket is the only thing you can hold on to. It’s your only friend when there’s nobody else around. Thus, never ever take off your Life Jacket before stepping on solid land.
However, a Life Jacket may not be able to get you back on board. And that’s why you need something special to carry on with you all the time and rely on it. There’s equipment as much necessary as a Life Jacket for sailors, which is called an Emergency Beacon. These electronic devices are designed to transmit your location along with information to rescue teams — when there’s a need for help.
Read on to find out what an Emergency Beacon is and does!
Emergency Beacon: Sea Dogs’ Savior Angel
As mentioned earlier, an Emergency Beacon is a device that is capable of transmitting some important information (e.g. location) to the closest rescue teams. Having an Emergency Beacon with you is a matter of life and death. There MOB situations in which your crew leave you behind and eventually lose your current location. In this case, you will need something to call for help and indicate your location. Emergency Beacons may contain a GPS system which enables you to make sure that your crew and/or the rescue teams will find you as soon as possible.
Some Emergency Beacons are automatically activated when there’s a threatening situation while some other must be activated manually. Both types of these devices can come in handy on MOB situations, and that’s why you must try to have them on board with you. The automatic Emergency Beacons are mainly preferred to be mounted on the boat itself, to increase the chance of being found by rescue teams when an emergency happens. These Beacons measure the water pressure and when gets higher than 6 feet, starts transmitting the location and other necessary information.
Sailors must mount these Emergency Beacons on a top of the boat (not too high, but in reach) and check it regularly to see if it’s working properly. There are also some automatic Emergency Beacons that check themselves regularly and send you needed information (i.g. battery level).
However, there are two main types of Emergency Beacons when it comes to sailing: EPIRB and PLB.
What’s the Difference Between EPIRB and PLB?
EPIRB stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. So the name simply reveals what it is and what it does. An EPIRB like a portable radio that is capable of transmitting restricted — but vital — information. Pay attention to the fact that it’s a transmitting device and not a transporter. That is, an EPIRB can only send information, and has no receiving function. However, the most important thing, indicating, is done accurately through these devices.
EPIRBs come in two different models, I EPIRB and II EPIRB. The earlier is better for those who want to make sure that nothing would go wrong. It has a system which regularly measures the water pressure and activates transmission functions when there’s a water pressure above six feet. Mounting it to your boat would guarantee a call for help, even though you may not be able to do anything but wait! I EPIRBs contain special brackets that enable it to detach from the boat and come to the surface of the water to continue sending information. Moreover, you can have access to their conditions without a manual check, because they can send you all the needed information.
A PLB, on the other hand, is a Personal Locator Beacon that is used by sailors individually to be able to ask for help when facing a MOB situation. A PLB must be activated manually, so you need to have it somewhere in reach. As soon as a sailor activates their PLB, the process of signal transmitting starts and rescuers are informed that someone may be in danger of MOB situation. Having a PLB attached to your PFD is a great idea. Since moving would get harder when you fall overboard, it’s necessary to place your Personal Locator Beacon somewhere close and easy to reach.
After activating PLB, all you need to do is to hold on, and wait for the rescuers to come and get you! However, keep in mind that you must get apart from PLB because the rescue team can only trace the device’s location.
You Must Have Both of them
Some sailors may think that one of the above Emergency Beacons would be enough to guarantee their safety on board. However, that’s not true at all. The function of EPIRBs is different from PLBs and you must have both, to secure a safe sailing. EPIRBs are proper devices for boats and won’t function appropriately to indicate an individual MOB situation. They are designed to transmit signals when the boat is capsizing and/or sinking. Moreover, carrying an EPIRB would not be easy (due to its size and weight). So, an EPIRB should top your must-have list along with PLB devices for individuals on board.
PLBs are designed for personal use (as the name reveals) and need to be activated manually. You can’t mount it on your boat and expect help from the rescue team! Contrary to I EPIRBs, there’s no automatic action on PLBs’ function and they are not capable of analyzing the situation. For this reason, having an I EPIRB for your boat and some PLBs for the crew is vital and must not be neglected at any circumstances! It’s so easy to lose your life while sailing because the mother nature won’t want to see you somewhere that is not meant for you. The ocean is not a proper environment for human being and the fact that he has conquered it, wouldn’t change the cruelty of deep waters.
So, don’t let the pride of being an old experienced sea dog fool you, because there’s no way to change the mother nature’s nature! All you can do is to adjust yourself in a way that she wouldn’t hurt you. Sailing with proper equipment (e.g. Emergency Beacons and Life Jackets) is a way of saving your life and showing your respect for the power of nature.
What Coast Guard Suggest About Emergency Beacons?
Well, Coast Guard says that having an I EPIRB is necessary for boats and guarantees their safety. According to Coast Guard, these GPS- containing devices allow the rescue teams to act as soon as possible, without a need to be alerted directly. Since I EPIRBs activate automatically and based on the analysis done within the device, there won’t be any need to ask for help from rescue teams individually. Rescuers will be sent to the last location (indicated by I EPIRB) and then try to bring everybody to the seashore — in one piece.
Coast Guard recommendations also include emphasizes on the importance of Life Jackets (i.e. PFDs). It says, near to 80% of MOB situations ending with death are caused by drowning. And in all those cases, not wearing Life Jackets is the actual reason behind the loss.
So, if you care about you and your crew’s life, make sure to provide them with proper equipment — specially PFDs and Emergency Beacons. This would be the most reliable way of securing everyone’s life on board. Don’t ever forget that you’re responsible for others’ safety too. However, if you’re just a member of the crew and not a decision maker, please don’t accept working under dangerous circumstances. Ask your captain to provide enough PFDs and Emergency Beacons along with other safety equipment before starting your job.
You Have to Register Your Emergency Beacons
Don’t forget that using Emergency Beacons without registration is not possible and you have to go through the process of registering Emergency Beacons with NOAA before actually using them. For this reason, visit the link below and follow up with instructions provided by the website to register your Emergency Beacons with NOAA.
Here’s the link: Noaa