Similar Terms: EPIRBs

Acronym for Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). When an EPIRB is activated, the EPIRB transmits a radio signal with user registration data (including the beacon's unique ID eg.15 character UIN or HEX ID) and positioning information to a network of satellites that assist the Coast Guard in conducting an emergency rescue.

It is mandatory to register your 406 MHz EPIRB otherwise you're liable for a fine. Registration is free and can result in a more efficient search and rescue effort. Beacon registration is valid for two years and renewal can be done online at www.beacons.amsa.gov.au or by contacting AMSA on 1800 406 406.

406MHz EPIRBs with GPS features have a location accuracy of 100m - 120m (A). Without GPS capability in your EPIRB, the location accuracy extends out to 5km (B).


(A) Finding CH Smith Marine with GPS   (B) Finding CH Smith Marine WITHOUT GPS
120m   5km


When an EPIRB is activated it transmits a distress message containing the beacon's unique ID eg.15 character UIN or HEX ID. The Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) will receive the beacon's distress alert message and search the registration database to identify the owner, emergency contacts, vessel, aircraft, vehicle and trip details. The RCC will attempt to contact the registered owner and/or emergency contacts to confirm if an inadvertent activation or true distress situation has occurred.

A distress beacon with an encoded (GPS) location is usually detected and located within minutes. Distress beacons that do not have the capability to provide an encoded position also provide an initial alert to the RCC within minutes, but there will be no associated position. If emergency contacts are aware of trip details or trip details have been submitted online, search operations can be commenced much sooner. If the RCC has to rely on Polar-orbiting satellites to determine the location of a beacon, the time to gain an accurate position may take longer thereby delaying search operations.

NOTE: Polar-orbiting satellites over-fly the Australian region on average every 90 minutes but passes may be anywhere from minutes to 5 hours apart. To improve response times, ensure distress beacons are registered and inform emergency contacts of trip details.

Even once a position is obtained, response times then depend on the time for a search and rescue (SAR) unit, such as a helicopter, aircraft or ground party to be readied and transit to the search area. The more remote the location of the distress incident, the longer the response time. In all instances, be prepared to survive.


What if a distress beacon is accidentally activated?

Switch off the beacon and notify RCC-Australia as soon as possible by calling 1800 641 792 to ensure a search and rescue operation is not commenced. There is no penalty for inadvertent activations.

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