Pleasure boaters reminded about distress signal changes

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The Coast Guard is giving boaters plenty of warning regarding changes in the monitoring of emergency beacons. An EPIRB that transmits a distress alert at 121 MHz or 243 MHz will not be recognized by COSPAS/SARSAT satellites after Feb. 1, 2009, and will likely go undetected in an emergency.

EPIRBS with a 406 MHz beacon will be exclusively monitored. Though the cutoff date is next year, the Coast Guard is using the start of the boating season for most of the country as reason to encourage all boaters to put a new EPIRB on their shopping list. The Coast Guard also encourages boaters to purchase EPIRBs with embedded GPS.

The 406 MHz EPIRB must be registered by law, according to the report. Registration is free at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov or it can be mailed or faxed to NOAA by calling (888) 212-SAVE. Once registered, authorities can determine whether it is an aircraft or vessel, and a false activation can be resolved with a phone call, saving time and resources.

Beacon registrations must be updated at least every two years, especially when emergency contact phone numbers have changed. For lifesaving information, along with how to take a boating course or get a free vessel safety check from a Coast Guard, visit www.uscgboating.org

— Elizabeth Ellis