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What happens when your EPIRB or PLB distress beacon is activated? - ask AMSA.

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Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) are responsible for all maritime search and rescue in Australia.


How long before a distress signal is received?



A distress beacon (EPIRB or PLB) with an encoded (GPS) location is usually detected by the RCC 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?



The most important thing to do is to 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 activation.

For more information on EPIRB or PLB registration, head over to Beacon Registration.

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EPIRB PLB Distress Beacons

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