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What is an EPIRB and PLB, and what's the difference?

What is an EPIRB and PLB, and what's the difference? - Life Raft Professionals

Benjamin Brandano |

What are EPIRBs and PLBs?

EPIRB, short for emergency position indicating radio beacon and PLB, personal locator beacon, are devices that are registered to an individual or vessel, and when activated, transmit an SOS distress signal to search-and-rescue teams onshore.

How do they work?

When activated, EPIRBs and PLBs will send a 406 MHz distress frequency signal which will be picked up by COSPAS-SARSAT satellites. This signal is then relayed to ground stations which transmit it to the nearest rescue coordination center. Rescuers will then use the information of your location to coordinate a rescue effort.

What's the difference between a PLB and an EPIRB?

There are a few differences between EPIRBs and PLBs which may help you decide which one is best for your needs. 

PLBs are registered to the owner and are commonly used by anyone looking to travel off the beaten path, whether it be into the wild or off to sea. They are much smaller in size than an EPIRB, since EPIRBs are intended to be carried onboard the vessel they are registered to. PLBs’ unique design makes them lightweight and compact so that they can be easily secured to a lifejacket, vest or tucked inside a backpack. 

The difference in how EPIRBs, like the Ocean Signal rescueME EPIRB1 - Category 2, and PLBs, like the ACR ResQLink View 425 PLB, are registered also plays a role in rescue efforts. EPIRBs are registered to a specific vessel, allowing rescuers to know what type of vessel is in distress and how many people they expect to rescue. Alternatively, a PLB is registered to an individual. 

While in the water and activated, an EPIRB is designed to float upright in order to transmit a signal. PLBs lack this feature due to their compact size, so it is important to make sure the antenna is up and out of the water when activated. If your PLB or EPIRB is submerged in the water or upside down a signal may not be transmitting. 

Once these rescue beacons start transmitting, a PLB has enough battery life to transmit for at least 24 hours, while an EPIRBs’ battery life allows it to transmit for at least 48 hours. This is absolutely necessary to consider while deciding which emergency beacon will work best for your needs.

No matter which emergency beacon you choose, PLBs and EPIRBs both increase the chances of rescue significantly. Feel free to check out our large selection of PLBs and EPIRBs by clicking here.

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