There is no doubt that we’re seeing more and better electronic safety devices all the time, especially compact ones boaters can carry around all the time. This one is from UK-based McMurdo. There are several dealers in the Pacific Northwest. You can find a list here.
Here’s the press release:
The compact, lightweight, 406/121.5MHz McMurdo Fast Find 220 Personal Locator Beacon is designed to be carried with you on board. Built-in GPS pinpoints your exact location and a bright LED SOS light helps rescuers spot you quickly in the water on approach. The battery guarantees a minimum of 24 hours operation.
Quick and easy to activate, with a safe stow antenna which automatically deploys when the unit is activated. Waterproof to a depth of 10 meters. Supplied with a flotation pouch, for easy retrieval. No service subscription needed. MSRP $249.
Here is McMurdo’s summary of the basics of a PLB:
A Personal Location Beacon (PLB) is a personal safety device designed to alert search and rescue services and allow them to quickly locate you in the event of an emergency, on land or sea. When activated it transmits a coded message on the 406 MHz distress frequency which is monitored by the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system. The alert is then relayed via an earth station to the nearest Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC). As the satellites are in a polar orbit they offer true global coverage – with a PLB you can summon help wherever you are on the planet, no matter how remote.
A PLB uses an internal GPS receiver to pinpoint your location to within 62m. Once in the area, rescue services are then able to pinpoint your precise location using the inbuilt 121.5Mhz homing transmitter.
Unlike EPIRBs which are registered to a specific vessel and must be re-registered if moved to a different boat, a PLB is registered to a person and so can be carried with you wherever you are – at sea, hiking, mountaineering or in any remote location or situation where you may require rescue.
PLBs are subscription-free devices, so have no cost of ownership after the initial purchase.
Ed. Note: Nwyachting.com reader Francine Rose reports:
After talking to local fire dept, I learned these things won’t alert anyone – they will only transmit your location if SAR is alerted by other means and knows to look for you. To ALERT anyone you need a cellphone or VHF…. Anyone have more info?
More on the PLBs (personal Locator beacon)
I called the Coast guard, the fire department and finally the communications department at 911 (sheriff).
The first two seemed to think some of them alert local RCCs (rescue coordination centers) and some just relay your position to a COS-PAS satellite that shows up on an SAR database.
When I spoke to the 911 guy, he explained that some PLB manufacturing companies (what they are calling “earth stations” in your article) monitor their devices AND THEN ALERT local authorities who then check the SAR database for your position.
The device does not send a direct signal to local RCCs like Fire, Coast Guard, or 911 –