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EPIRB rule change in New Year

DEC. 12 — Commercial and recreational boaters will be prohibited from using 121.5 and 243 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons as of Jan. 1, 2007.

The Coast Guard is prohibiting the use of the EPIRBs in preparation for Feb. 1, 2009, when satellite processing of distress signals will detect only signals from 406 MHz beacons, the agency says in a press release. The new regulation applies to all Class A, B and S 121.5/243 MHz EPIRBs. It does not affect the usage of 121.5/243 MHz crew overboard devices, designed to work with a base alerting unit and not the Coast Guard satellite system.

The change was brought on, in large part, because of the unreliability of the 121.5/243 MHz beacons, and because of false alerts they send, the Coast Guard says in the release. There are far fewer false signals received from 406 MHz beacons. If the beacons are properly registered false signals can usually be resolved with a call to the beacon’s owner.

In the United States, 406 MHz EPIRB users are required by law to register their beacon in the Beacon Register Database, either online or by calling (888) 212-SAVE, the release says. Registration information includes the owner’s contact information, emergency contact information and vessel identifying characteristics. International boaters can register their 406 MHz beacons in the International Beacon Registration Database.

Jason Fell