Getting the most out of an EPIRB


• Register your EPIRB. Failure to do so can result in a $10,000 fine if it accidentally activates.

Registering an EPIRB gives the Coast Guard information to track you or a relative down if it goes off. This enables them to determine very quickly whether this is a real or false alert, and to start the search sooner.

• If you fill out the registration form by hand, be sure it’s legible. A clerk will have to transcribe the information and enter it into the database. Better yet, register online at NOAA’s Web site (www.beaconregistration and enter your EPIRB information directly into the database. Once an EPIRB is registered, make sure the identification code printed on the beacon is the same as the code on the letter and proof-of-registration sticker NOAA sends back to you.

• Test your EPIRB by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Never activate your EPIRB to see if it’s working.

• Replace batteries as often as the manufacturer recommends. Some experts advise that after two battery replacements it’s time for a new unit.

• To dispose of your EPIRB, remove the battery, ship it back to the manufacturer or render it inoperable by demolishing it, and unregister it.

• If your EPIRB comes with a bracket, realize that the two are a system. When the EPIRB is in its bracket, a small magnet in the bracket keeps an electronic switch in the EPIRB in the “off” position when the EPIRB gets hit with spray or rain. Outside the bracket, or improperly placed in the bracket, the EPIRB can automatically and accidentally activate when exposed to spray.

• Follow manufacturer’s directions for care of the device.

See related articles:

- New technology improves EPIRB searches

- Anglers learn a lesson about EPIRBS

This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue.