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Author Topic:   Personal Locator Beacons
jimh posted 04-23-2013 10:49 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Recently I investigated the topic of the emergency position-indicating radio beacon or EPIRB. See

EPIRB Primer

There are also emergency locating devices called personal locator beacons or PLB devices. From what I can find, a PLB is a sub-category of EPIRB. The EPIRB seems to be registered or associated with a vessel, while the PLB seems to be registered or associated with an individual person.

All PLB devices are supplied from the manufacturer with a identification number--a hex-code--which must be registered with the appropriate national authority. All PLB devices appear to provide the 406-MHz signal. Just as with EPIRB devices, the PLB devices can include an internal GNSS receiver which provides a position fix to the PLB transmitter, sending a distress signal with an accurate location included in the message. It is not clear to me at this time if all PLB devices include the 121-MHz continuously transmitted beacon signal. In some products, little mention is made of having a 121-MHz transmitter, but many PLB devices I investigated seem to have this feature.

It seems that EPIRB devices are mainly associated with vessels and with being at sea, while PLB devices are not particularly restricted to maritime use. People on land can carry a PLB device. The expectation for a PLB devices is it won't be activated unless there are no other more conventional means of obtaining emergency assistance.

Because EPIRB devices are used at sea, the United States Coast Guard acts as a coordinating agency when a distress alert is received from an EPIRB. Because PLB devices can be activated on land, the United States Air Force acts as a coordinating agency when a distress alert is received from a PLB in the USA.

It does not seem mandatory that all PLB devices be waterproof and provide floatation. Obviously a PLB device worn by a mariner should be one that is waterproof, floats, and is designed for operation on or in the water.

As with EPIRB devices, some PLB devices from certain manufacturers offer the option of non-emergency self-test messages with email delivery of confirmation.

The cost of a PLB device is marginally lower than an EPIRB. The least expensive PLB devices are about $300; the most expensive PLB devices are about $500.

If others can add additional information about personal locator devices and how they differ from EPIRB devices, please do so.

fno posted 04-26-2013 05:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for fno  Send Email to fno     
I may be mistaken in the numbers but I believe that EPIRBs for marine applications have 24 hours of battery life at a certain temperature. PLBs have 12 hours of battery life. That can make a big difference in your choice if travelling far from shore.
jimh posted 04-27-2013 08:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
An approved EPIRB must be able to operate for 48-hours.

We will have to search for the data about battery life for a PLB. If anyone finds the specifications, please give a link to them.

fno posted 04-29-2013 10:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for fno  Send Email to fno     
I am quoting BOE Marines website for the sake of convenience and they are usually accurate about most electronic products that they sell.

"EPIRBS are rated to last for 48 hours once deployed."

Later in the FAQ's:

"PLB's are the much smaller devices, typcally the size of a cordless phone. PLB's are suited to be used by individuals, although many will use this as the primary rescue locator for the boat. PLB's are small enough to be worn by the user. PLB's need to be manually activated, so they are not water activated like an EPIRB. PLB's also float, but they do not float upright so the user must hold them in an upright configuration for them to work. PLB's also last 24 hours once activated instead of 48 hours like an EPIRB. And finally, PLB's are registered to the user and not to the boat.

So my original statement was incorrect by a factor of two, on the positive side if needing to deploy one of these devices. Bear in mind that the BOE text also recommends that a PLB be used as a secondary device for individuals. I myself several years ago purchased an ACR PLB in lieu of an EPIRB because at the time an EPIRB cost in the range of $900-$1200 and the PLB was about $450. I also boat primarily in coastal waters of the ocean and rivers in Florida where there is plenty of coverage for emergencies. To name a few: USCG, FLDEP, County Marine Police, FL State Police, US Customs & Immigration, Border Patrol, ATF, DEA, and the US Navy, Air Force, and Marines also lend a hand with search and rescue.

Hoosier posted 04-30-2013 09:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
The new model ACR ResQLink Plus seems to be a very complete unit. personal-locator-beacons/resqlinkplus

The lowest price I've seen is $275.

Basshole posted 05-01-2013 03:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for Basshole  Send Email to Basshole     
Hoosier- I just bought that one. I hope I never have to use it!

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