Jan 15 2009
Old EPIRBs Only Working for Two More Weeks
Thursday, 15 January 2009

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          Beginning February 1st, the Coast Guard and other search-and-rescue personnel will only monitor and receive distress alert broadcasts using digital 406 megahertz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons, or EPIRBs.

KMXT's Erik Wander has more.



The Coast Guard will no longer monitor 121.5 or 243 megahertz emergency beacons as of the first of next month. In addition, search and rescue satellites will no longer process older model analog EPIRBs that only transmit on 121.5 or 243 megahertz. Robert Davis is a marine science technician at the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Detachment in Kodiak.


--          (Davis 1          13 sec.             "On February 1st ... no longer pick up the satellite signal.")


In anticipation of the change, the digital 406 megahertz became the only frequency approved for use in both commercial and recreational watercraft worldwide on January 1st, 2007. Satellite processing from all 121.5 or 243 megahertz EPIRBs will be terminated on February 1st of this year.


--          (Davis 2          34 sec.             "The 406 is what is ... really, it's not going to.")


            Petty Officer Sara Francis of the Coast Guard in Anchorage said the new regulations are designed in part to reduce possible false alarms, something that was common with the 121.5 and 243 megahertz frequencies.


--          (Francis 2        50 sec.             "We found that only about ... so, we know who we're looking for.")



            Ted Rogers, owner of Joycrafts Marine Safety Equipment, said he saw sales of the 406 megahertz EPIRBs begin to increase long before the new regulations were announced.


--          (Rogers 1        22 sec.             "We have a pretty savvy group ... regulations have taken place.")


EPIRB owners are required by law to provide emergency contact information and a vessel description by registering their beacon with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This allows search and rescue personnel to quickly confirm if a distress signal is real, and identify what type of boat or aircraft to look for in the event of an emergency. I'm Erik Wander.