Skipper’s Corner: Emergency Signaling Devices

Hello Intermarine Customers,

As some of you know, one of the recommendations I make when asked which equipment should be placed on board a boat, I always suggest an Emergency Signaling Device (amongst some other items) for those that venture offshore by themselves.  I wrote the following article to explain a bit about the difference between the two types of Emergency Signaling Devices used by recreational boaters. There are more differences than what I address in this article however you may find it helpful as you launch into more personal research on the subject.

Happy Boating!
Captain Tony

Emergency Signaling Devices
EPIRBS (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) and PLB’s (Personal Locator Beacons) are emergency signaling devices designed to pinpoint (within 150 ft MOL), a location where a rescue is needed. Both of these devices go a long way towards accomplishing that goal when activated by transmitting a coded message on the 406 MHz distress frequency relayed via the Cospas-Sarsat global satellite system to the nearest rescue coordination center.

Which one is best for you – EPIRB or PLB?

Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) and Personal Location Beacons (EPIRBs) work using exactly the same technology however there are some differences between the two.

  • PLBs transmit for a minimum of 24 hours, EPIRB’s transmit for a minimum of 48 hours.
  • EPIRBs can be configured to automatically deploy and activate in the event of an emergency at sea. Category I EPIRBs are designed to float free from a sinking boat and turn on automatically when it comes into contact with water, while a Category II rating denotes those that are manually activated and deployed, much like a PLB.
  • PLB can be registered to a person so it can be taken and used anywhere such as white water rafting, hiking, camping etc. Conversely, an EPIRB is registered to one boat, and should only be used on that one registered boat.
  • PLB’s are smaller and lighter than EPIRB’s.
  • PLB’s cost less than EPIRB’s, about 250.00 versus 500.00 plus dollars for an EPIRB.

Federal law requires that 406 MHz EPIRBs and PLB’s be registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), so if your EPIRP goes off, search and rescue organizations will know who they’re looking for. Registration can be done online at


One thought on “Skipper’s Corner: Emergency Signaling Devices

  1. Pingback: Boating Safely during Labor Day weekend | Boating

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s