Wednesday, March 10, 2010

EPIRBs and You


A few weeks ago we told you about AMVER and where your signal goes in the unfortunate event that you set off your EPIRB in a boating emergency. But do you have an EPIRB? Did it come with your boat? Do you know which type to have onboard and which type definitely will NOT save your life?

In general, an EPIRB is known for sending a signal for help in case of an emergency on your boat. There were several types, but make sure you have the latest technology when it comes to EPIRBs. If you have an older 121.5 or and 243 MHz EPIRB, the signal it sends out will fall on deaf ears. The signals they send out have not been monitored for over a year now, so they are useless to carry onboard.

The newer EPIRBs – and the only ones that are useful now that the aforementioned frequencies have been phased out – work on a more reliable, digital 406 MHz frequency. If somebody is trying to sell you anything but a 406 MHz frequency EPIRB, walk away.

But wait, there’s more!
The 406 MHz EPIRBs come in two very important categories:
Category I: automatically activated.
Category II: manually activated.
Should you save a hundred bucks and get the manual one? Think of it this way. If there’s an emergency and your boat is going down, you are searching for life jackets, maybe a life raft, and helping other passengers, it’s a great benefit to know you don’t have to go find your EPIRB and flip a switch.

A quick check of West Marine showed us EPIRBs in the price range of $700 to $1200 with various features including battery type and life, GPS, the brightness of the LED flashing locator lights, overall size, durability of the casing and submersibility.

Is an EPIRB worth the cost? For most recreational boaters, it’s a personal choice as EPIRBs are not required on most personal vessels. However, in our opinion, an EPIRB is an indispensable addition to your arsenal of onboard safety equipment.

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