• Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon

EPIRB's are transmitters that utilise the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system to alert rescue authorities to the position of the transmitter. They do not allow voice contact with rescue operations staff, so the activation of an EPIRB is a serious affair -the should only be used in a true emergency situation where the mariner is in serious jeopardy of loss of life or serious injury. In general, most AKFFers would be better suited to invest in a proper marine VHF radio to communicate with authorities, since we don't travel as far offshore as to be generally out of radio contact.

Types of EPIRBsEdit

There are various models of EPIRBs that might suit serious ocean kayakers:

  • Category I

Commonly called 406 EPIRBs (because they use the 406mhz spectrum), these are also the most expensive units. They have the ability to transmit a digital identification signal as well as a homing signal so the authorities know who has set the unit off. Category I EPIRBs also have the ability to be triggered automatically (for instance, when they are immersed) so the mariner can plan on having the beacon work even if the seaman is disabled.

  • Category II

These units are less expensive than Category I's, but they lack automatic deployment capabilities.

  • Category B

These older style EPIRBs, which only offer homing information (not vessel identification) are slowly being phased out. By Feb 2009 there will no longer be any monitoring for these signals, rendering them useless.

There are also now units that offer DGPS (Differential GPS) positioning information to give more exact information to rescue auhorities by using a built-in GPS and the 406Mhz digital transmission capability of a Category I or II EPIRB to include exact Latitude and Longitude position.

Who Should Use an EPIRBEdit

Any vessel longer than 8 metres that intends to travel more than 2 nautical miles offshore is required to carry an EPIRB in NSW. Kayakers are not required to carry one, but it is advised for offshore work.

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