April 6, was 406 Day, a national campaign run by NOAA to spread awareness of the importance of emergency position indicating radio beacons, or EPIRBS, and personal locator beacons, or PLBs, in boating safety.
In 2018, the Eighth Coast Guard District responded to over 200 distress signals from EPIRBS aboard aircraft and boats.
An EPIRB works by transmitting a signal that is picked up by a satellite and then relayed to a rescue coordination center.
Beacon registration is free, easy, and required by law. Federal law requires all EPIRBs be registered in the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database, which is free to all beacon owners.
When beacon owner information changes, it should be updated online at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov or by contacting the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database at 1-888-212-SAVE (7283).
Owners are required to validate their beacon information every two years to ensure their contact information is up-to-date. Current beacon owner information allows search and rescue responders to work more efficiently and can decrease response time during distress situations.
If your EPIRB is accidentally activated, contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 1-855-406-USCG (8724) and provide them with the beacon’s ID to cancel the false alert.
Search and rescue personnel begin responding immediately to every activation of a distress beacon. Cancellation of false alerts helps protect SAR personnel who would be utilized during an actual emergency, and ensures valuable resources are available to respond to actual distress cases.
“The Eighth Coast Guard District covers roughly half of the Gulf of Mexico and receives over 200 EPIRB alerts a year,” said Kevin Robb, a SAR specialist at the Eighth Coast Guard District. “Approximately 97% of these alerts are false alerts, including accidental activations and bracket failures. Our sole focus is your safety on the water. Keeping your EPIRB registration information accurate helps us to better respond to your situation, and in turn prevents us from unduly hazarding our first responders and wasting resources at taxpayer expense. Be safe and register your EPIRBs and PLBs and keep the registration information current!”
Editor’s Note: Coast Guard members in your area may be available to discuss 406 Day and the importance of EPIRBs and PLBs. Contact the 8th Coast Guard District Public Affairs Office at 504-671-2020 to coordinate interviews.