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406Day Signals Pre-season reminder of life-saving benefits of 406 MHz beacons

This April 6th, leading UK safety specialists Ocean Signal and Ocean Safety are joining forces for the 11th 406Day campaign to raise awareness about life-saving 406 MHz beacon technology.

The annual 406Day message promotes the importance of 406 MHz EPIRBs (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon), PLBs (Personal Locator Beacon) and ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitter), highlighting their vital role as a link to rescue services via the designated Cospas-Sarsat satellite system.

Providing useful advice ahead of the new boating season, the 406Day guidance includes tips on beacon use and maintenance for all leisure sailors, boaters, watersport enthusiasts and maritime workers, as well as hikers and anyone enjoying activities in remote regions.

PLBs, designed for installation within a life jacket for semi-automatic activation upon inflation, and EPIRBs, carried by a vessel, are activated in an emergency on land or sea, saving more than 50,000 lives worldwide since the mid-1980s by using emergency distress 406 MHz beacon signals and the Cospas-Sarsat system.

Each 406 MHz beacon transmits a unique digital code that identifies the type of beacon and allows registration data to be associated with the device. The registration data provides information such as the beacon owner, the type of vessel and emergency points of contact. All beacon owners should update their beacon registration, check their battery expiration date, and self-test their beacons to make sure they are working perfectly.

In 2023, the awareness drive includes an update on multiple signal technologies added to the next generation beacons.

James Hewitt, Ocean Signal Managing Director, said: “Every year, Ocean Signal, its UK distributor Ocean Safety, and sister company and 406Day founder ACR Electronics, urge boaters and outdoor enthusiasts to understand the features of 406 MHz beacons, as well as the responsibilities of owning a device, so they can enjoy the outdoors safely this year and help the emergency services to find them quickly when a rescue operation is necessary.

“This year, we have an even more positive message to spread with the new advanced beacons now available. We continue to encourage people to carry the devices – both for peace of mind and to maximise survival chances in an emergency at sea and in remote regions.”

The difference for boaters selecting the next generation PLBs and EPIRBs is access to both long and short-range detection technologies in one package in an emergency. The products, including the DAME Award winning Ocean Signal rescueME PLB3, the rescueME EPIRB3 and the SafeSea EPIRB3 Pro, unite two different key systems for the first time – the global response capabilities of the rescue services via the satellite network and AIS technology to indicate an MOB position to nearby vessels for immediate aid.

The next generation 406 MHz beacons include Galileo Return Link Service, providing the user with confirmation that the international satellite system has received their distress message and location. The Ocean Signal NFC app offers mobile connectivity for the first time, enabling beacon owners to monitor their beacons, review self-test results, view GNSS test locations, and monitor beacon performance and maintenance. The beacons also have visible and infrared signal lights. For SOLAS vessels, the Ocean Signal SafeSea EPIRB3 Pro meets updated IMO maritime Safety Committee EPIRB regulations requiring new EPIRBs to be fitted with an internal AIS locating signal.

Ocean Signal offers the following simple advice to beacon owners to ensure their EPIRB, PLB or ELT will operate effectively in the event of an emergency.

  • Check the battery expiration date – Each beacon is marked with the Month and Year the battery needs to be replaced.
  • Update your beacon registration – Make sure your contact information is correct and your emergency contacts information is accurate to best assist Search and Rescue.
  • Double check your beacon registration number matches your beacon – This is especially important if you hand wrote your registration and mailed it in.
  • Review the Product Support Manual to make sure you fully know how to use the beacon and where to store it to prevent a false activation.
  • Test your beacon – 406Day is about getting beacon owners to be more comfortable with their beacon, so do a self-test and make sure it’s working perfectly.
  • Save a Friend – Take a picture with your EPIRB, PLB, or ELT and share it on your social media accounts using the hashtags #406Day23 and #beaconssavelives and tag some friends that you think might need one.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency published guidance for the MGN 665 (M+F) Registration of EPIRBs and 406 MHz PLBs used in the maritime environment, available here. The UK Beacon Registry has created an online portal for registration of the beacons.

UK distributor Ocean Safety is offering a chance to win an Ocean Signal rescueME PLB3 on its Facebook page from 6th April.