Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Emergency Locator Beacons Provide Life Saving Communication

January 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 


A perfect day on the water can quickly change. A boat may hit an unseen object, a wave capsizes it, a sudden storm makes navigation impossible, or equipment fails. In situations like these, communication is key. Many boaters operate in locations beyond cell phone towers and the line-of-sight capabilities of their VHF radio, so owning and registering an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) can mean the difference between life and death.

dscn1631Boaters mount a waterproof EPIRB, registered to the vessel, which can be manually or automatically activated in emergency situations (a related communication device, the personal locator beacon, is registered to a person and must be manually activated). An EPIRB is used to alert search and rescue responders by transmitting a coded message to the nearest rescue coordination center via satellite on the 406 MHz distress frequency.

All emergency locator beacons must be registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which participates in the Cospas-Sarsat Program, a worldwide search and rescue lifeline. Hundreds of people in the past two years have been rescued at sea after distress signals from emergency beacons were relayed to a network of ground stations.

The National Safe Boating Council shares stories of boaters and their loved ones facing tragic outcomes in hopes their experiences will resonate with others about how an EPIRB can save lives. John Silverwood is a survivor saved by the beacon. “Boaters may feel confident they are safe because they have a VHF radio or cellphone,” says Silverwood, who was sailing with his family of six when they hit a reef late at night. “We had other communication devices, but what got us the help that saved our lives was the EPIRB.”

David Hope is another boater who’s lived to tell his tale. Hope and his crew were caught in a severe storm that made their 37-foot vessel inoperable. “A U.S. Coast Guard Falcon jet homed in on the EPIRB signal and came right to us,” he says. “It takes just a few minutes to purchase and register a 406 MHz beacon that might become a lifetime of survival.”

Learn more about how an EPIRB can save your life during an emergency:

More information: and

To register your EPIRB: 


By Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson is executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the lead organization for the ‘Saved by the Beacon’ campaign, produced under a grant from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. For more information about boating safety, follow the National Safe Boating Council at and #savedbythebeacon



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