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EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odds

Radio/Satellite/Phone/E-mail

EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odds

by ka4wja » Sat Jun 15, 2013 1:29 pm

EDIT....
EVERYONE, PLEASE PROPERLY REGISTER YOUR EPIRB!!!
And once registered, please renew (and update) this information every two years, as required!!!
(making sure that all shoreside contact info is up-to-date, AND that they will ALL know approx. where you are sailing...i.e. what ocean you're in, and/or what area you are in...)

And everyone, please read this thread....and follow and READ THE LINKS PROVIDED in it, as the information here (and in those links) may just save your life someday, of the life of someone you love!!!
Now, how's that for an easy way to save your life...just spend a few minutes reading/learning!!!

..............

Fortunately nowadays vessels sailing off and never being heard from again, is a rare occurrence....as most are equipped with Distress signaling devices such as an EPIRB (a 406mhz EPIRB using the Cospas-Sarsat system), especially a GPS-enabled one with a built-in GPS receiver, etc. and many also have MF/HF-DSC signaling (and a few also have INMARSAT-C)....all parts of the GMDSS....as well as many modern sailors having access to better weather data/forecasts, than in days of yore.....

But, with some recent occurrences (such as s/v Grain de Soleil, etc.) being debated on-line, I thought maybe someone should post some information on how the Cospas-Sarsat system works, how your EPIRB works (and how-to make it work properly/better), and how to increase/improve your odds of rescue, etc.

So, that is what this posting is intended for....the posting of helpful information about distress signaling and the effectiveness of various approaches...

{Please understand that I'm a self-sufficient sailor/voyager, and I sail by the concept that myself and crew are alone out there and whatever we encounter we should be prepared to handle ourselves....but, part of that is realizing that there may be a rare instance/occurrence that is outside of my control and my ability to solve, and that if all else fails, I still think I'd rather be alive on the deck of a container ship or in a USCG helo, than "going down with my ship".....so, I have elected to equip my boat with distress signaling devices, including an up-to-date registered, and GPS-equipped EPIRB and full VHF and MF/HF-DSC transceivers and antennas (including emerg antennas)....
In my mind/opinion, these are the "last line of defense" against death, and are not designed to be an "easy 911 call" for those sailors that are careless and/or unprepared....
So, this post is not intended to say that "anyone can sail offshore, and when you get in over-your-head, you just need to push a few buttons and you'll be fine"!!! But rather to inform all of you what you can do to improve your rescue odds, should the fhit really hit the san!!! }



1) First off, I will not endeavor to re-write things that have been already well-written and widely published...I will simply post the links to those pages....
But, what I will attempt to do is briefly break things down to some basic concepts and make things understandable to non-tech folks...



2) So, to start off with for details of what the Cospas-Sarsat system is and how it and your EPIRB works, please read over their pages...
http://www.cospas-sarsat.org/en/system/systemoverview
http://www.cospas-sarsat.org/en/system/ ... escription
http://www.cospas-sarsat.org/en/operato ... ns-concept

If the above links don't work....please try these!!!

http://www.cospas-sarsat.int/en/system-overview/cospas-sarsat-system
http://www.cospas-sarsat.int/en/system- ... escription
http://www.cospas-sarsat.int/en/system- ... uick-stats




The USCG has a nice powerpoint presentation which explains things easily...
http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg534/.../EP ... y_Work.ppt

And, if that link doesn't work, please try this one...
https://encrypted.google.com/url?sa=t&r ... bs.1,d.eXY



And, for well-written pieces describing things better for the average sailor, please read over Beth Leonard's excellent articles (from Nov 2011 Cruising World)...
http://www.cruisingworld.com/how-to/sea ... -the-epirb
http://www.cruisingworld.com/how-to/sea ... r-scenario

And, for a brief glossary of terms and some links to resources...
http://www.cruisingworld.com/how-to/sea ... esources-0



~~~
Onto the nitty-gritty!!!
~~~
3) You MUST register your EPIRB!!!
And the registration must be renewed every two years!!!

{EDIT:
For clarification, it is a Cospas-Sarsat requirement to register and renew every two years, not my opinion here...:) }

Although obvious to anyone that understands the system and how it works, many EPIRB owners either forget to do so, or some just ignore this requirement out of ignorance...

Without proper registration, even in the very best circumstances/scenarios, the search and rescue (SAR) operations will be seriously delayed!!! (and in some situations, particularly in 3rd world regions, there may not be any SAR operations at all, until/unless someone can "verify" that this is a "real" distress!!!)
Do you really want to be floating in the icy N. Atlantic for an extra 6 hours??? Or, treading water for days in the middle of some remote part of an ocean??? Just because you couldn't spend < 5 minutes registering your EPIRB!!

Also, unless/until you've established a voice contact with a rescuer, without a proper registration anyone looking for you / trying to assist you in your distress has no idea what type of vessel you're on, nor what color it is, nor its size, nor whether you have liferafts/lifeboats, nor what communications equipment you have, etc... NOT even the name of your boat....
All they know is that a beacon has gone off!!!
Have you ever tried calling a "nameless boat in distress" on the radio, and not even knowing if he has a radio????

EPIRB registration is free, and you can do it on-line, so PLEASE do it!! and keep it up-to-date!!!
And, there is plenty of room on the forms to include many phone numbers of "shore-side emergency contact"....I currently have EIGHT (8) phone numbers and THREE (3) different people listed on my EPIRB registration (not including my own name and numbers), so the RCC should be able to find someone that can confirm where I was sailing!!! :)

{EDIT:
Having just renewed mine a couple weeks ago, I found the name and phone numbers of an old girlfriend of mine still listed there as some of my secondary contact numbers....haven't spoken to her in > 2 years, and I wonder if she's just tell the USCG to "let him drown!!" :) :)
Okay, she wouldn't do that, but she's certainly NOT someone that would have any up-to-date information about me / my voyage, so I corrected/updated the names/numbers for my emergency contact, so now all is good!! }




4) Understand that even with a new (or newly serviced and recertified) and properly registered EPIRB, a Search and Rescue (SAR) response to your EPIRB activation is NOT instantaneous!!! (read Beth's article for more details...)
In a nutshell, the RCC (Recue Coordination Center) is first going to be looking for a "confirmation" that this is a real distress....such as an MF/HF-DSC Distress signal, or an INMARSAT-C Distress signal... or in many 1st world ocean regions, secondarily a 'shore-side emergency contact" who can "confirm" approx. where you are at and that you may in fact be in distress....

{Note that even though it IS part of the GMDSS (and is a VERY useful and robust system, which also provides FREE weather info/forecasts worldwide) VERY few small/mid-size private vessels have INMARSAT-C.....and until recently even though it is also part of the GMDSS, few have had MF/HF-DSC signaling capabilities, so unless you have this equipment and it is properly set-up and working well at the time of your distress, your "shore-side emergency contacts" are the only way the RCC can confirm your distress, and they should not only be available / reachable 24/7, but also should have a fairly good idea of WHERE you are sailing at, and as many details about your vessel and current voyage as possible....they should be someone that can be available 24/7 to provide the necessary info, not just "some guy I know" :) ....}

As an example, in Beth's article the "Best-Case SAR Scenario", a lengthy 3 - 5 hours went by between EPIRB activation and before rescue options were evaluated and AMVER alerts went out, and it was 5+ hours before any SAR assets were directed / deployed....(that means that some ship may have been steaming AWAY from you, or on an unfavorable course from you, for the past 5 hours...making them now as far as 5 hours farther away from you than they were when you activated your EPIRB!!)
And, remember this is a "BEST-CASE" scenario....most will not have such "good luck"... :)

In addition to providing a distress "confirmation" to an EPIRB activation, which can speed up the process in the best case scenario (and actually start / motivate the process in worse-case scenarios), a MF/HF-DSC Distress signal (and/or an INMARSAT-C Distress signal) also alerts other vessels in your area (directly) that you are in distress, and includes your current GPS position as well as instructions for establishing two-way voice contact (via a specified MF/HF-SSB radio channel).....
This is one reason why there is a second "S" in GMDSS, it stands for "System"....
Using just one part of the system might get you a response, but using two parts (or more) of the system is MUCH more likely to get you a quick and effective response...
Myself, if it came down to needing rescue and I was going to activate my EPIRB I would also send out VHF-DSC and MF/HF-DSC Distress messages in the hope that I'd get a response quickly from a vessel close-by, as well as using both a Cospas-Sarsat EPIRB signal and a MF/HF-DSC signal to confirm each other and enhance the chances of a more rapid SAR response from shore.....


FYI, once you are beyond USCG helo range (typically anything further than 150 - 200 miles off the coast of the US), or beyond the range of coastal UK Coast Guard, or beyond the range of the very few other 1st world nations coastal rescue / coast guards, any assistance / rescue is going to come from other vessels IN YOUR AREA!! These are typically merchant ships, plying the high seas as their business, not the USCG!!!
So, for most ocean crossings and other long passages, getting a Distress message directly to those who can/will render assistance and/or provide rescue as quickly as possible, is always a good idea!!!





5) Now, while many of you may think this is a "belt and suspenders" approach, it is actually how the GMDSS (Global Marine Distress and Safety System) was designed....as a "System".....if you use it as a "system" it works very well....

And, some may be wondering: "why can't they just get my position from my "G-PIRB" (GPS-enable EPIRB) and come and get me??"
Well, the answer is multi-fold:
a) It does take a few minutes for your EPIRB (G-PIRB) to attain a GPS-fix and then it takes a minute or two for it to pass on this info to the geo-stationary Cospas-Sarsat satellites (GEOSAR satellites), assuming it can connect to one...

b) The Cospas-Sarsat system uses two types of satellites, and it is only the geo-stationary satellites, GEOSAR satellites (22,300 miles above the equator) that can receive your EPIRB's GPS position, and getting the beacon's registration number and GPS position sent up to these satellites using these small beacons and small antennas is not easy....(PLB's are even worse in this application)
In order for this information/data to get thru, EPIRB's must be in the open, with a clear view / line-of-sight to the geo-stationary satellite (similar to using an INMARSAT ISatPhonePro), and usually floating as well....but they cannot get thru to the GEOSAR satellites from below decks or under a wet liferaft canopy (at best, they are very intermittent under a wet liferaft canopy, and both the EPIRB manufacturers and Cospas-Sarsat strictly recommend leaving your EPIRB floating alongside your liferaft (tied securely to your raft, of course!!), NOT inside the raft!!!
Further the strobes that are on/in the beacons are hard for SAR assets to see, if they're in the raft!! :)

Cospas-Sarsat has demonstrated that the GEOSAR and LEOSAR system search and rescue capabilities are complementary.



(This poorly understood part of the system, is also the main reason why PLB's used offshore /in a raft is a less-than-optimal approach.....and unfortunately the smaller and less effective antennas on PLB's vs. EPIRB's means that they must be physically held up fairly well in order for their GPS data to get thru to the GEOSAR sats....)


c) The LEOSAR satellites (Low-Earth-Orbiting Search And Rescue satellites), orbit only a few hundred miles above the earth and receive signals as much as 30db stronger than the GEOSAR satellites receive.....
But, they do NOT receive the GPS-position data from your beacon, they only use the Doppler-effect and signal processing to approximate your position (within a few miles)....
Since these satellites are much closer and are constantly moving, the EPIRB has a MUCH better chance of being received by them....and while it is still not recommended, LEOSAR sats can receive your beacon's signal even with it below decks and/or inside your raft....(BUT, understand that there is NO GPS data from your beacon received by these LEOSAR sats...)
The Cospas-Sarsat LEOSAR system uses polar-orbiting satellites and, therefore, operates with basic constraints which result from non-continuous coverage provided by LEOSAR satellites. The use of low-altitude orbiting satellites provides for a strong Doppler effect in the up-link signal thereby enabling the use of Doppler positioning techniques.
LEOSAR's can calculate the location of distress events using Doppler processing techniques; and are less susceptible to obstructions which may block a beacon signal in a given direction because the satellite is continuously moving with respect to the beacon.


[b]Also, understand that these are polar orbiting satellites and it takes about an hour between satellite passes in mid-latitude areas (less at the poles, and longer at the equator)....and also understand that the initial position fixes from the Doppler-processing of the LEOSAR satellites can be VERY inaccurate....
A quote from Beth's article illustrates that...
“Initial LEOSAR positions can differ by 50 to 60 miles and sometimes cross rescue areas,” said U.S. Coast Guard Captain Dave McBride. “I’ve seen cases where the first two positions calculated by the LEOSAR have been in different oceans.”



d) Further, it is always strictly recommended that an EPIRB be left ON at all times after activation (i.e. do NOT cycle it on/off to save the battery), and as you can see above, there are specific technical reasons for this requirement....
--- It can take quite a while for the data to get thru to the GEOSAR sats if your EPIRB is not out in the clear, and you have NO WAY to know if that GPS data got thru or not....even if it's out in the clear, it's not an absolute that the GPS data will get thru....
--- You have NO WAY to know when a LEOSAR satellite will be within view of your beacon, so turning in on/off you may never get your signal thru to one....

Bottom line:
If you need to activate your EPIRB, get it out in the clear, turn it on, and leave it on!!




6) In addition most EPIRB's also have a very low-power 121.5mhz "homing signal" to allow SAR aircraft and helos, when approaching close (< a mile or so), to home-in on the beacon's position...
I'm not sure how long PLB's (with smaller batteries) will allow this 121.5mhz homing signal to transmit....nor if your PLB will still have any battery power left to run it, if/when a rescue aircraft is out there looking for you.....




7) There has also been some discussion (and some grumbling) about the high cost of EPIRB battery replacement / service / re-certification....
This is required every 5 years, and typically costs about $300...(as I was stuck at the dock, I allowed mine to slide to 6 years, but if I was heading offshore, I would adhere to the 5 year requirement)

Yeah, there are some that will buy the batteries ($50 - $75) and replace 'em themselves...but, I'd rather have a professional actually test my EPIRB after they replaced the batteries, and provide a new certification / test results sheet to me....

I would also want to be sure that whatever batteries I used, were not just the "proper" ones, but also NEW and ready to be sealed up in my EPIRB for the next 5 years, and ready to send out my distress message for at least 48 hours (or more)!!!

Yes, this last part here is mostly opinion / personal recommendation, but I feel secure in that I'm also doing what Cospas-Sarsat recommends, not just following blindly the EPIRB manufactures' recommendations to spend money with them....[/b]




There is more info / details available on the links provided above...
(and I suppose that we could use all of this info to further speculate on those rare occurrences of vessels never heard from again and/or those vessels who have activated their EPIRB, but still have never been located or heard from again..)


Fair winds..

John
Last edited by ka4wja on Thu May 21, 2015 3:07 pm, edited 6 times in total.
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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Be aware other vessels' Troubles or Distress / Render assist

by ka4wja » Sat Jun 15, 2013 5:03 pm

I wanted to add some opinion / context to my above posting, especially in regards to being aware of other vessels' issues/troubles on-board and/or other vessels' Distress, while we are all out on the High Seas...
But, I also did NOT wish my personal opinions to cloud the facts of EPIRB activation and results, so I'm just posting some of my observations/opinions here....

The on-line discussions of s/v Grain de Soleil, their EPIRB activation, and result of nobody/nothing ever being located (never even found the EPIRB's exact location), is enough to make me write the above posting.....
But then add in the recent report of a sailboat arriving in Horta (a few days after s/v Soliel's EPIRB activation), and reporting that while they saw a "flashing light" off their starboard side (witnessed/confirmed by two crew members), while sailing in the area of the EPIRB's activation location a few days earlier, they had no idea there was any vessel in trouble or in distress, and as such simply made note of the sighting and continued on to Horta....
And now, this makes many of us realize that we also may have passed by other mariners / vessels in need of assistance without any clue...

Is there anything that is being done, or can be done, to allow ocean cruising/voyaging pleasure boats to participate in the process more???

Yes, there are things being done now....and some we can do in the future (for free), that can help...



1) Most of us don't have the money, space, or time/effort, nor the electrical capacity on our small boats to equip them and operate them in compliance with the GMDSS (good thing we aren't required to do so!!!)

Very few of us have an INMARSAT-C terminal....and although some (many??) have MF/HF-DSC equipment on-board, most don't have the electrical capacity (about 45-48 A/H per day, for a quiet/squelched M-802) to run it 24/7...

So, what to do....

Short of being a full participant in AMVER, which means nor only providing a "sailing plan" and regular position reports, usually via e-mail (HF-Radio or satellite-delivered) or INMARSAT-C, but also having a way for you/your vessel being contacted directly by an RCC (usually via INMARSAT-C, or INMARSAT Voice call, or via HF-Radio Telex / e-mail), to notify you of a Distress in your area....
This means in order to be an effective participant, you are getting close to being GMDSS compliant (meaning a decent amount of gear being on 24/7 and its associated electrical draw, etc. as well as the co$t!!!), as well as the added workload of sending reports and/or checking for alerts...

http://www.amver.com/
Participation is generally limited to ships over 1000 gross tons, on a voyage of 24 hours or longer. Recently, however, enrollment has been expanded to accommodate vessels outside the normal criteria, such as cruise ships, research vessels and fish processors.


There is another way of being aware of other vessels sailing on the high seas that might be in need of assistance....



2) That "other way" is an HF Radio Net...a wide area coverage Net (covering an ocean), with a shore-side contact or Net Control, can provide information to others transiting the area / sailing across that ocean..

The one unique thing about radio is its inherent capability to "broadcast" to an unlimited number of listeners....

Whether that "information" is weather data/forecasts, a Distress alert from a RCC, a Notice to Mariners, etc. or even just an important message for a specific vessel, from home....
An HF Radio Net is an excellent way to get this information out to many, many users/sailors/cruisers/voyagers/etc. quickly and efficiently, at NO cost to either those out at sea, nor to those on-shore transmitting the information....(the only "cost" is a few minutes of time each day...)

In the past few years of being on Herb's Weather Net (on 12.359mhz), I've been surprised by the regularity that he has transmitted alerts for RCC Halifax of RCC Norfolk, regarding vessels in Distress but not located...(usually this is from an EPIRB activation)...
During the Atlantic crossing seasons, Herb has transmitted a few of these "Distress Alerts" each season, usually one every 3-4 weeks during the few months of crossings....perhaps as many as 6 - 8 each year...and those are just the ones that the RCC's have called Herb about...
How many other legit EPIRB activations are there, which I haven't heard about???

I don't know if the ARC, or NARC, or Salty Dog rallies do this...but since they usually don't have a shore side Net Control for an RCC to contact, I doubt they do...
(although if participate in their own daily net, I assume they pass on information regarding other vessels in their rally that may be in need of assistance...)

Now that Herb is retiring (this is his last season, and will be off-the-air in a few weeks), there will be no long distance / wide area coverage HF Radio Net for small boats (except for the MMSN on the ham bands, at 14.300mhz) crossing oceans....all that remains are local/regional nets and those of specialized rallies....
Perhaps this is another reason for the SSCA to consider a long-range HF Radio Net??? Maybe for ocean crossings???
And, if this does come to fruition, perhaps a close contact can be established with RCC Norfolk (or other USCG contact) that would give the Net control operators a daily update of Distress signals / EPIRB activations across the N. Atlantic and/or other areas that the new SSCA HF Radio Net might cover...so that the Net Control Station could pass this information along to other sailing vessels on passage offshore???




I invite others to add their thoughts/ideas/comments about this...


Fair winds..

John
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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Re: EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odd

by ka4wja » Sun Sep 29, 2013 4:29 pm

Please see recent threads on DSC-Distress signaling, specifically the real-deal of what/how the Icom M-802 does when you want to signal a DSC-Distress!!!

Fair winds...

John
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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Re: EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odd

by chuck » Sun Sep 29, 2013 7:13 pm

We posted this on our blog quite a while back, http://trawler-beach-house.blogspot.com ... -what.html . Chuck
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Re: EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odd

by ka4wja » Sun Nov 03, 2013 4:53 pm

FYI, I recently made some videos on-board, detailing the Icom M-802 operations....

On a related issue to EPIRB Activation is DSC-Distress Signaling...

And, here is a video of DSC-Distress Signaling....a LIVE Demonstration of DSC-Distress Calling ("digital MayDay"), and a real-world explanation of the facts that no vessels are required to maintain an HF "voice" radio watch (since 1999) but all SOLAS vessels ARE required to maintain a MF/HF DSC Radio Watch....
DSC (Digital Selective Calling) Functions.....showing a LIVE demonstration (and differences) of "simple" (single-freq) Distress Call vs. "regular" (six-freq) Distress Call, MMSI#, GPS input, etc.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgnBiGNbWNU



Please have a look here at this thread for descriptions and links to the videos...
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=16779&p=79472#p79472


And, you may wish to look at my youtube page for updates and new videos as I have the time...
http://www.youtube.com/user/captainjohn49



Please enjoy....and fair winds...


John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

http://www.qrz.com/db/KA4WJA
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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Re: EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odd

by ka4wja » Mon Nov 11, 2013 1:29 pm

If anyone is interested in an easy-to-understand explanation of why/how HF-DSC signaling can alert other vessels in your area / along your passage, AND provide a "confirmation" of an EPIRB alert / EPIRB-derived AMVER alert, here it is!!!

I came across a great little video (only a minute and a half long, with nice music) a few weeks ago, that shows the earth from orbit, and VERY nicely shows the shipping routes / patterns across the world's oceans!! (Global ship traffic seen from space.)

Please take a look at this video, and see where you are, where you've sailed/voyaged, and where you are planning on sailing/voyaging....and compare those places/routes/passages to those of the shipping on this video, and to the location of shore-side assistance and shore-side search-and-rescue assets..
And, you can see how using HF-DSC signaling can get you a response and assistance from a vessel in your area fairly quickly....as well as "confirm" any alert received from an EPIRB...
(yes, the USCG, etc. will use AMVER to find vessels in your area, etc....but that does in fact take TIME...sometimes hours)

Have a look and enjoy...
Global ship traffic seen from space.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtffmxJmehs

Far winds...


John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

http://www.qrz.com/db/KA4WJAA
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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Re: EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odd

by ka4wja » Mon Mar 31, 2014 7:25 pm

EVERYONE, PLEASE PROPERLY REGISTER YOUR EPIRB!!!
And once registered, please renew (and update) this information every two years, as required!!!
(making sure that all shoreside contact info is up-to-date, AND that they will ALL know approx. where you are sailing...i.e. what ocean you're in, and/or what area you are in...)

And everyone, please read this thread....and follow and READ THE LINKS PROVIDED in it, as the information here (and in those links) may just save your life someday, of the life of someone you love!!!
Now, how's that for an easy way to save your life...just spend a few minutes reading/learning!!!



Details for EPIRB registration can be found in a simple google search....
But, most of you...


For US-flagged vessels, simply follow the steps on this page....it's FREE!!!

http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/beacon.html



For Australian-flagged vessels....
http://beacons.amsa.gov.au/registration.html
http://beacons.amsa.gov.au/register_now.html


For UK-flagged vessels...
http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/mcga07-home/e ... /epirb.htm
http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/mcga07-home/e ... online.htm


For ALL countries.....
COSPAS-SARSAT has a site that points you in the right direction...
http://www.cospas-sarsat.int/en/beacon- ... mhz-beacon
https://www.406registration.com/


For French-flagged vessels...
https://registre406.cnes.fr/sarsatweb/do/login
or...
Agence Nationale des Frequences
info@anfr.fr
4 rue Alphonse Matter
88100 Saint Die des Vosges
France
Phone
(33.3) 29422000

Fax
(33.3) 29422010

~~~~



(Note that, in addition to registration, local or international regulations may require that your aircraft or vessel identification be electronically encoded into your beacon so that it is transmitted in the alert message when your beacon is activated. This only can be done by a properly qualified service facility. Check with the manufacturer of your beacon.)




Now, with the spring outfitting season starting, and with Atlantic-Crossing season starting in the next 6 - 12 weeks, I thought some may find this information helpful...

Fair winds...

John
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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Re: GME EPIRB Recall!!

by ka4wja » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:07 pm

Just spoke to a guy on the radio, who asked me if I knew about an "EPIRB Recall"....

And, when I googled it, I came up with this recent press release / recall announcement from the Australian manufacturer GME / Standard Communications Pty Ltd...


http://www.gme.net.au/public/pdf/brochu ... recall.pdf

Those that have GME EPIRB's should look closely at them and heed the recall!!

After exhaustive testing we have identified a fault in the microprocessor of certain units
that effectively shuts the beacon down. We are concerned that the beacon may not work
in an emergency situation.
In consultation with national maritime authorities, Standard Communications
has decided to recall certain EPIRBs manufactured between January 2005 and
February 2008.




Fair winds..

John
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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Re: EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odd

by ka4wja » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:32 pm

EVERYONE, PLEASE PROPERLY REGISTER YOUR EPIRB!!!

And once registered, please renew (and update) this information every two years, as required!!!
(making sure that all shoreside contact info is up-to-date, AND that they will ALL know approx. where you are sailing...i.e. what ocean you're in, and/or what area you are in...)

And everyone, please read this thread....and follow and READ THE LINKS PROVIDED in it, as the information here (and in those links) may just save your life someday, of the life of someone you love!!!
Now, how's that for an easy way to save your life...just spend a few minutes reading/learning!!!

Also, please make sure that the battery is good and if not, I recommend paying the ~ $300 fee for professional battery replacement / testing and re-certification....
This is not some place that you really want to save a few bucks on!!
(especially those of you who just bought a new smart phone...)


With the fall outfitting season starting, and with Atlantic-Crossing season / US-to-Caribbean passage season both coming up, I thought some may find this information helpful...


Fair winds....

John
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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Re: EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odd

by jonathanoasis » Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:22 pm

Wouldn't the best way to improve the odds against "non located vesel" just be to carry two EPIRB's, or an EPIRB plus one or more PLB's, all of them registered properly. For distress, activate one, then after a day or two, activate the other, and so on. The odds for location and rescue would presumably increase in a polynomial fashion. I am just guessing though. GPS equipped PLB's are small enough and cheap enough ($250) that having two per life jacket for example, is within reach.
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Re: EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odd

by ka4wja » Thu Oct 09, 2014 6:38 pm

Jonathan,
Unfortunately yours is a common misconception / misassumption....

I assume you haven't read thru the links in the above posting??? (as the answers are there, directly from the official experts....such as the USCG and COSPAS-SARSAT)


If you read all of the links above, you'll see that this is not the case...
jonathanoasis wrote: Wouldn't the best way to improve the odds against "non located vesel" just be to carry two EPIRB's, or an EPIRB plus one or more PLB's, all of them registered properly. For distress, activate one, then after a day or two, activate the other, and so on.
As this does NOT provide any system redundancy....you are still relying on only the COSPAS-SARSAT system....(don't get me wrong, it is a great system, but it is not fool-proof, nor 100% reliable, etc....and certainly involves delays....)
The objective of the GMDSS is to have a redundant way of signaling distress....such as MF/HF-DSC, and/or INMARSAT-C, as well as VHF-DSC for coastal / close-range signaling....
(this is explained in detail above, and in the links...)

BTW, should you carry multiple EPIRB's, set them BOTH off.....do NOT set-off only one, keeping the other for the next day or two....this is NOT the accepted / recommended procedure....setting them BOTH off at the same time (or within minutes of each other) is best...assuming you have no other means of signaling distress, this WILL give the best odds of response....

Further, please understand that PLB's are fine for folks to use as intended (a lost / injured hiker, etc. holds it up or sets it up in a clearing), but if you are thinking that they will work well when you're floating in the water, think again!!!
They need to be held up, out-of-the-water, and in the clear....and remember the beacon's distress calls are data bursts, so holding it up for many, many minutes (hours??) in order to allow the COSPAS-SARSAT satellites to generate a fix and/or receive your location data accurately, and MRCC's to confirm a valid distress....(the absolute best case is 20 minutes....worst case may be hours, or never...)
EPIRB's are designed to work IN THE WATER (or sitting in the clear), and of course most have operational battery lives of twice that of PLB's.....(and when you are out in the middle of an ocean, you're NOT a quick helo ride away from rescue!!)


Jonathan, PLEASE read the links to the official and professional advice, especially the COSPAS-SARSAT and Cruising World links.....
But, in brief....
Between September 1982 and late 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard estimates that EPIRBs facilitated the rescue of nearly 23,000 people, proving them to be an invaluable aid in SAR situations. But we’ve learned that activating an EPIRB is nothing like dialing 911, especially in international waters. Since our Chilean experience, we’ve been indirectly involved with two other international EPIRB incidents in which rescue efforts were hampered by communications problems, jurisdictional issues, and a lack of SAR resources. Should you ever have to activate your EPIRB, understanding how the system works, where the process can break down, what steps to take, and what those ashore can do will increase your chances of survival.

According to U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Mark Turner, “Even in U.S. waters, the average time to rescue a vessel far offshore would be three to four days. In most cases, once authorities activate the AMVER system and find a ship that can respond, it takes at least 12 to 24 hours to reach the vessel.”

Signal Mayday three ways: Rescue authorities don’t mount salvage operations. When you issue a Mayday, you’re agreeing to abandon your vessel. The Mayday should be signaled in three ways: by emergency DSC call over VHF and SSB, by a voice call over both, and by activating the EPIRB.

Carry the most up-to-date emergency equipment: The COSPAS-SARSAT System is a highly developed, worldwide SAR system with international protocols. But equipment and protocols change. For instance, merchant ships are no longer required to monitor earlier radio-distress frequencies; instead, they screen the new DSC system on VHF and SSB.

As an example, in Beth's article the "Best-Case SAR Scenario" (a composite of real-world distress situations), a lengthy 3 - 5 hours went by between EPIRB activation and before rescue options were evaluated and AMVER alerts went out, and it was 5+ hours before any SAR assets were directed / deployed....(that means that some ship may have been steaming AWAY from you, or on an unfavorable course from you, for the past 5 hours...making them now as far as 5 hours farther away from you than they were when you activated your EPIRB!!)
And, remember this is a "BEST-CASE" scenario....most will not have such "good luck"...so, having some other way of signaling distress and one that may be more direct / without delays, is always a good idea...



In actual fact, your odds of a professional SAR (Search And Rescue) response go up exponentially if you signal a distress with redundant means / methods / systems....such as:
a) COSPAS-SARSAT EPIRB....(a 406mhz EPIRB)
b) MF/HF-DSC distress signaling (which is received by > 500 coast stations worldwide and 1000's of SOLAS vessels at sea...)
c) INMARSAT-C...
d) VHF-DSC...
{please take note that even though an EPIRB is still the number one device to use to signal a distress, understand that the DSC radio signaling goes to EVERYONE at the same time, instantly....with your exact position....without any delays.....this is not the case with the satellite-based distress signaling....and can allow you to have some help on the way quicker.....and you may, in fact, be talking with your rescuers before the COSPAS-SARSAT system has even gotten your position / calculated your fix...but, of course, an EPIRB is a activate-and-forget-it device and doesn't need ship's power, etc., unlike a MF/HF-DSC-SSB radio (which isn't gonna work when your boat has sunk and you're in your liferaft, like an EPIRB will)....this is why there are MULTIPLE distress systems designed into the GMDSS (the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System), starting in 1992, and mandatory for all SOLAS vessels and signatory nations since Jan 1999!!! }
jonathanoasis wrote: The odds for location and rescue would presumably increase in a polynomial fashion. I am just guessing though. GPS equipped PLB's are small enough and cheap enough ($250) that having two per life jacket for example, is within reach.

I did not intend to teach a seminar here, or write a treatise on this, which is why I included all of the relevant links.....please read them, and you'll learn a lot....and probably end up knowing more than >90% of the cruisers out here...



I hope you find this info helpful...

Fair winds...

John
John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

(currently lying, Sewall's Point, FL)

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