Cobham Life Support, ACR Products want all EPIRB and PLB owners to double-check ID codes for errors

Cobham Life Support, ACR Products – leaders in safety and survival technologies – is trying to contact all beacon owners. They want all EPIRB and personal locator beacon owners to double check their 15-character identification code registration for errors.

According to a recent Marine Board of Investigation inquiry, which is looking into the sinking of a scallop boat Lady Mary on 24 March this year, there was a discrepancy in the EPIRB’s identification number, which was marked on a decal that the boat’s owner had received after he registered the EPIRB.

In the case of the Lady Mary, the emergency signal initially received by authorities was regarded as unregistered which may have led to delays in response time while emergency center controllers waited for additional satellite passes to fix a location.

“Because this situation came to light, we are urging all beacon owners to compare their 15-character identification code printed on the beacon with the registration sticker they receive just to ensure they both match,” explained Chris Wahler, Marketing Manager for Cobham Life Support, ACR Products. “If there is a discrepancy, we urge the owner to contact the appropriate authority immediately to correct the information.”

Despite the requirement to register all EPIRBs and PLBs, some reports show that up to 40 percent of EPIRB activations are from unregistered beacons, a possible deadly mistake when minutes can make the difference between life and death.

In an emergency, the EPIRBs and PLBs transmit on 406 MHz via the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system with the sender’s unique, registered, digitally coded distress signal. The code allows emergency officials monitoring the system to tell who is sending the signal (thanks to the coding and registration data). Once the emergency is confirmed and location data is received from the satellites, a search can be authorized.

Wahler said proper registration is vital in the early minutes of an emergency so rescue center officials can obtain critical data about a boat’s owner, home port, emergency contacts and other information to begin a search even before a satellite gets a fix on a beacon’s location.