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Old 14-05-2015, 14:43   #31
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

It's a good question about the MRCC's. I will contact Delorme and see what they say. Presumably they have the list of numbers and know how to make quick contact. But I'd like to hear them say so.

It's an unfortunate vestige of the 30 year old EPIRB system that the registration databases are scattered all over the world. This leaves room for confusion and dropped hand-offs between MRCC's. Obviously, there should be a single worldwide EPIRB center and a single EPIRB registration database. Hmmm - like Delorme...

Because the Inreach is a 2 way system, if you don't get a quick response to a message you can try another person until you find someone who's awake. This seems so much better than the one-way EPIRB where you have no indication that anyone heard your call for help until many hours later when a helicopter might be overhead -- or not.

And besides the Delorme emergency center I would also immediately contact one of several friends who would raise holy Hell to insure my rescue and be extremely difficult for any SAR in the world to ignore.

While the SPOT is primarily a "tracking system", the InReach is primarily a messaging and distress system. Mine appears more rugged and better engineered than my EPIRB (for example, the antenna is stronger and far less likely to break off)

Unlike an Iridium satphone, my understanding is that the Inreach sends a burst message when it has satellite reception. If the satellite doesn't confirm receipt, it tries again. So it is much more likely to get through atmospheric problems than a satphone. As I mentioned, mine typically shows a received receipt within a minute. To date, never longer than 2 minutes. I'd be interested to hear from people using the Inreach in high latitudes and other difficult reception locations

I don't know but do the satellites handling EPIRB signals also have solar storm and similiar interference issues?

The InReach is not more expensive than an EPIRB because the $300 purchase price and $15 monthly service is justified for everyday non-emergency communications. There's no extra cost as an emergency system. And since it is always charging on the navstation and in regular use, I know it's working and has a fully charged battery. How many of us regularly test our EPIRB?

Finally, it's a complete mystery why the US CG (and apparently most other maritime SAR organizations) do not publish a distress email address and SMS capable phone number. If your mission is saving lives, why would you refuse to use the two most common messaging systems in use today? In many US cities you can now "Text-to-911". I assume this is happening elsewhere in the world?

I thank people for comments. As I said, I carry the EPIRB as a backup because -- well, because I too have trouble believing the EPIRB is like the cassette tape (interestingly, the predecessor to the the cassette for music - the 8 track tape - was phased out starting in 1982. This was the same year the EPIRB Cospas-Sarsat satellites were launched) .

But so far this discussion strengthens my sense that the InReach is my primary distress communicator and the EPIRB the backup.


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Old 14-05-2015, 14:58   #32
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

A question for the group.

When an EPIRB signal is received, in the US the CG tries to call the emergency contacts in the registration database to verify that you might be out there. I've also heard CG broadcasts on VHF for the same purpose.

If the CG can not reach anyone and they have no other information such as a float plan, what is their procedure? Will the launch a plane or helicopter solely on an unverified EPIRB signal? Or do they broadcast a "Keep a sharp lookout" message? Or is it a judgement call of the CG officer on the scene?

What happens in other countries?
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Old 14-05-2015, 14:59   #33
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

A question for the group.

My understanding is that in the US when an EPIRB signal is received, the CG tries to call the emergency contacts in the registration database to verify that you might be out there. I've also heard CG broadcasts on VHF for the same purpose.

If the CG can not reach anyone and they have no other information such as a float plan, what is their procedure? Will they immediately launch a plane or helicopter solely on an unverified EPIRB signal? Or do they broadcast a "Keep a sharp lookout" message? Or is it a judgement call of the CG officer on the scene?

What happens in other countries?
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Old 14-05-2015, 15:24   #34
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

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Originally Posted by Rustic Charm View Post
I think they look very promising as a primary safety device as well as a back up.

The one concern I have with them, which would lead me always to have an epirb, is that there intention as a 'safety device' is secondary as its main purpose of being used as a tracking device and 'turned on'. This means it's not only possible but likely to be run flat at times and as Murfey's Law always dictates, it will be at a time when its most needed. An epirb on the other hand does not use its batteries unless it's needed. So, it's always ready to go.

The other negative compared to epirbs, are that its not a 'one cost' and it's yours. It's an expensive little device that continues to gobble up dollars. Forget to pay those subscriptions and then where is the help?
My experience has been the opposite with battery powered devices. All batteries self discharge, some slower than others. It never fails that when I grab a flashlight I haven't used in a long time, the batteries are dead. While the chances of that are slimmer with an EPIRB, I'd be more comfortable with something that I probably have on the charger most of the time, like the Inreach. Now if EPIRBs had rechargeable batteries and were left on the charger until needed, I'd feel a lot more comfortable about the state of charge. My experience with Murphy's Law has always been the seldom used item will usually fail you when you need it, the more you need it, the higher the probability of failure.
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Old 14-05-2015, 15:32   #35
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
It's a good question about the MRCC's. I will contact Delorme and see what they say. Presumably they have the list of numbers and know how to make quick contact. But I'd like to hear them say so.

It's an unfortunate vestige of the 30 year old EPIRB system that the registration databases are scattered all over the world. This leaves room for confusion and dropped hand-offs between MRCC's. Obviously, there should be a single worldwide EPIRB center and a single EPIRB registration database. Hmmm - like Delorme...

not so obvious to me. You make it sound like there are hundreds of data bases. In Australia there is one. And epirb signals are picked up by AMSA alone, not conveyed by third parties. Too big and it gets cumbersome. And whilst you say it's a 30 year old system, it's NOT really a 30 year old 'system', in fact it's a relatively new system

Because the Inreach is a 2 way system, if you don't get a quick response to a message you can try another person until you find someone who's awake. This seems so much better than the one-way EPIRB where you have no indication that anyone heard your call for help until many hours later when a helicopter might be overhead -- or not.

And besides the Delorme emergency center I would also immediately contact one of several friends who would raise holy Hell to insure my rescue and be extremely difficult for any SAR in the world to ignore.

I think Inreach has a good place as a 'back up system' but not to replace epirbs, not by a long shot. And you explain the reasons here. YOUR the one doing it. That's not safe enough.

While the SPOT is primarily a "tracking system", the InReach is primarily a messaging and distress system. Mine appears more rugged and better engineered than my EPIRB (for example, the antenna is stronger and far less likely to break off)

Unlike an Iridium satphone, my understanding is that the Inreach sends a burst message when it has satellite reception. If the satellite doesn't confirm receipt, it tries again. So it is much more likely to get through atmospheric problems than a satphone. As I mentioned, mine typically shows a received receipt within a minute. To date, never longer than 2 minutes. I'd be interested to hear from people using the Inreach in high latitudes and other difficult reception locations

I don't know but do the satellites handling EPIRB signals also have solar storm and similiar interference issues?

The InReach is not more expensive than an EPIRB because the $300 purchase price and $15 monthly service is justified for everyday non-emergency communications. There's no extra cost as an emergency system. And since it is always charging on the navstation and in regular use, I know it's working and has a fully charged battery. How many of us regularly test our EPIRB?

im not a mathematician, but for $300 you can purchase an epirb with GPS and a ten year battery. That's it. It's yours. An additional $15 a month is another $170 a year on top. How is that NOT more expensive?

I test all of my epirbs every season and before any off shore trip. I've not heard of a failed epirb personally


Finally, it's a complete mystery why the US CG (and apparently most other maritime SAR organizations) do not publish a distress email address and SMS capable phone number. If your mission is saving lives, why would you refuse to use the two most common messaging systems in use today? In many US cities you can now "Text-to-911". I assume this is happening elsewhere in the world?

completely agree with this one. I tried emailing our authority with a non emergency matter in 2012 and four days later they forwarded the message to police. Neither police nor marine authorities utilise email or text over here.

I thank people for comments. As I said, I carry the EPIRB as a backup because -- well, because I too have trouble believing the EPIRB is like the cassette tape (interestingly, the predecessor to the the cassette for music - the 8 track tape - was phased out starting in 1982. This was the same year the EPIRB Cospas-Sarsat satellites were launched) .

But so far this discussion strengthens my sense that the InReach is my primary distress communicator and the EPIRB the backup.


Carl
Your pretending the Epirb system in use today is from the 80's. That's like saying 'it's time we did away with cars as they are old technology developed in the early 1900's. It's time we have something else'.

The latest epirb systems are less than ten years old. The addition of GPS is also new and much more reliable.
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Old 14-05-2015, 15:35   #36
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

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Originally Posted by socaldmax View Post
My experience has been the opposite with battery powered devices. All batteries self discharge, some slower than others. It never fails that when I grab a flashlight I haven't used in a long time, the batteries are dead. While the chances of that are slimmer with an EPIRB, I'd be more comfortable with something that I probably have on the charger most of the time, like the Inreach. Now if EPIRBs had rechargeable batteries and were left on the charger until needed, I'd feel a lot more comfortable about the state of charge. My experience with Murphy's Law has always been the seldom used item will usually fail you when you need it, the more you need it, the higher the probability of failure.
It would be interested to know of 'any' facts known of epirbs and flat batteries. Personally, I've never heard of any having flat batteries.
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Old 14-05-2015, 15:45   #37
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

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Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
A question for the group.

My understanding is that in the US when an EPIRB signal is received, the CG tries to call the emergency contacts in the registration database to verify that you might be out there. I've also heard CG broadcasts on VHF for the same purpose.

If the CG can not reach anyone and they have no other information such as a float plan, what is their procedure? Will they immediately launch a plane or helicopter solely on an unverified EPIRB signal? Or do they broadcast a "Keep a sharp lookout" message? Or is it a judgement call of the CG officer on the scene?

What happens in other countries?
I can only refer to australian regions, which for search and rescue is bloody huge. When receiving an alert they first try to contact the two registered contacts to verify who, what, when, where type of information. On information confirming an emergency or not knowing, a search and rescue is always initiated. Police for all land based searches. AMASA continue to manage and co ordinate the search.

This is why it annoys the hell out of them when people don't update their information or don't dispose of old ones correctly. There's been a few old ones found in rubbish tips by police following a search and there's always accidental set offs which are corrected by phoning the registered user.

The new epirb system is without doubt the most reliable and safest option for emergency response for the reasons I and others have indicated. Inreach and yellow brick are without doubt fantastic safety items as well. But no where close to replacements. Not yet.
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Old 14-05-2015, 15:48   #38
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

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I'm all for new technology and agree that some of the SOLAS stuff is so far out of date to be laughable. I object to having to carry explosives on my boat when there are laser flares but the IMO in their infinite wisdom won't approve laser flares for SOLAS.

So we are stuck with the current regs and for many parts of the world that means SARTs and EPIRBs along with pyrotechnics (and maybe a bucket of pitch just in case).

Only issues I can see with this "intouch" system is it appears to be designed to track and keep in touch with a base station rather than scream for help. The scream for help bit is a secondary feature so can you genuinely call it a primary safety system? Secondly I know it uses the Iridium system but having experienced how shockingly poor the coverage can be in remote parts of the world I question the OPs faith in the communications, plus Iridium is notoriously susceptible to space conditions (solar wind/storms etc). Thirdly you have to pay for the service whereas once you have registered your EPIRB with your flag state's relevant authorities it's free.

An EPIRB is also self arming so you fix it to the guardrail and if the excrement hits the air con and you capsize without warning (as did Cheeki Rafiki in the Atlantic) or without being able to get to the grab bag with your "intouch" the EPIRB has already sent out it's scream for help with your GPS position (which is never accurate to 5ft unless you happen to be in sight of a Differential tower which means close to shore, heck I've seen my chartplotter GPS with WAAS differential put me 25m (80ft) onto dry land when I know for a fact I'm 20m away from the beach!!).

Yes there are downsides to the EPIRB such as the battery expiry but that's only the same as pyrotechnic shelf life and disposal problems or remembering to charge the handheld VHF or ensure the AA's in the handheld GPS are good.

Like any prudent navigator I prefer not to rely on a single source of information and when it comes to safety I'll have a belt and braces approach so would have an EPIRB even with this new technology and keep a laser flare or 2 handy with my floating GPS DSC VHF.

Just my 2pence worth.

Keiron

I agree. I think two devices for rescue are a minimum, 3 would be even better. I've seen so many devices fail when you really need them (especially battery powered) that I wouldn't be all that surprised if the first two failed.
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Old 14-05-2015, 17:19   #39
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
A question for the group.

When an EPIRB signal is received, in the US the CG tries to call the emergency contacts in the registration database to verify that you might be out there. I've also heard CG broadcasts on VHF for the same purpose.

If the CG can not reach anyone and they have no other information such as a float plan, what is their procedure? Will the launch a plane or helicopter solely on an unverified EPIRB signal? Or do they broadcast a "Keep a sharp lookout" message? Or is it a judgement call of the CG officer on the scene?

What happens in other countries?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rustic Charm View Post
I can only refer to australian regions, which for search and rescue is bloody huge. When receiving an alert they first try to contact the two registered contacts to verify who, what, when, where type of information. On information confirming an emergency or not knowing, a search and rescue is always initiated. Police for all land based searches. AMASA continue to manage and co ordinate the search.
…………..
Like RC, I can only speak to the Australian situation and I can confirm that any EPRIB alert is considered as "live" even if no other positive confirmation can be obtained.

The only time I'm aware that they hesitate somewhat is when they receive an alert from an aircraft located at a airport with a manned control tower. So far in Australia, every one of these is false alarm. I believe in these circumstances the first call is to the air traffic controller in the region.

As I posted on other EPIRB threads, I have been responsible for more than a few of these false alarms, usually due to faulty aircraft wiring and once activated, many aircraft beacons can't be turned off without removing the battery so it can take a few minutes to turn them off. I use to stress about getting the darn thing to switch off but now I make a quick call to the AMSA MRCC first advising the alert is false. They follow a set procedure to confirm the alert is truly false and they have always been very cordial and appreciative of the call.
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Old 14-05-2015, 17:25   #40
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

Another question for all.

Do you think the Inreach communications centre (company and staff) would be held to the same level of accountability as a governmental MRCC should there be stuff up with handling an distress alert?

Being a private outfit and with corporate image and money at stake, would they do it better or worse?
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Old 14-05-2015, 17:33   #41
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

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It would be interested to know of 'any' facts known of epirbs and flat batteries. Personally, I've never heard of any having flat batteries.
Again I can't speak for all beacons but the ones I familiar with monitor the battery use during testing and will fail a self test once 60 self tests are activated. They also fail the self test if the transmitted power is down which is an early indication of a partially discharged battery.

Having said that, all electronic devices do have the potential of sudden failure although I have only ever seen a few of the very old non 406 beacons fail and I have tested hundreds of beacons over the years.

Not that it is relevant to the maritime world but merely as a small point of beacon trivia, I seen too many "G" switch failures on beacons fitted to helicopters. These switches are mechanical and presumably fail to excessive prolonged vibration. The remainder of the beacon functions do however, still work.
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Old 14-05-2015, 17:53   #42
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

Following has been amended for length

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The odds of an EPIRB saving the life of someone swimming in mid ocean without a boat or liferaft are vanishingly small........

I appreciate that I am arguing a point that goes against decades of accepted practice and expert advice.

But EPIRB technology is 30 years old - when there were no mobile phones, Internet, or GPS. it's due for improvement. Perhaps there is some "gotcha" to the InReach that I haven't found. That's why I still carry an EPIRB too.
Some fact deficientcies here. First, 8+ years ago ACR used to sponsor me, so I got to visit the factory and meet with their team. They have a collection of stories where EPIRBs and PLBs have saved people. I am 99% sure not all were in boats.

Second, while the old beacons simply transmitted a beacon signal that was triangulated based on the Doppler effect, devices have had on-board GPS devices for a long time. Modern ones go from cold to broadcasting a location in seconds.


Not looking to start %##!, but it contained some inaccuracies.
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Old 14-05-2015, 18:00   #43
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

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I agree. I think two devices for rescue are a minimum, 3 would be even better. I've seen so many devices fail when you really need them (especially battery powered) that I wouldn't be all that surprised if the first two failed.
Agreed. Not only two devices, but two different systems. When I step up into the life raft, it will be with the EPIRB in one hand and the Inmarsat phone in the other. And I'll probably have SPOT and a handheld VHF along for the ride.
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Old 14-05-2015, 19:21   #44
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

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………...
Finally, it's a complete mystery why the US CG (and apparently most other maritime SAR organizations) do not publish a distress email address and SMS capable phone number. If your mission is saving lives, why would you refuse to use the two most common messaging systems in use today? In many US cities you can now "Text-to-911". I assume this is happening elsewhere in the world? ………….
Not such a mystery in my opinion

My take is that text and email are very poor methods of communication.

Yes, they are great for sending a message but good communication requires acknowledgement of message received and understood. Neither SMS or email provides this. I acknowledge that email can include a read receipt but even this does not prove the message is fully understood. Instant two way communications allow for acknowledgement, understanding and further clarification if required.

I also concur that the EPIRB does not provide acknowledgement but it is inherently understood .

A small (but maybe important) aspect of the EPRIB it that it's transmissions can be monitored by other parties and I am assuming that this isn't the case with an Inreach service.
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Old 14-05-2015, 20:38   #45
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Re: Are EPIRBs dead?

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It would be interested to know of 'any' facts known of epirbs and flat batteries. Personally, I've never heard of any having flat batteries.
Of course not.

Flat batteries = dead EPIRB = no rescue = dead sailors = no one to come back onto a website to tell you they died because their EPIRB was dead.


When it comes to batteries, I've seen all kinds of things. I've seen alkaline AA batteries that were made with reversed polarity. I've seen brand new alkaline batteries that died right out of the package, the rest of the batteries in the package were fine. I had a laptop battery die within 2 weeks of buying the laptop.

I've had 3 sets of 900CCA batteries die in my truck in less than 6 months ea. (it uses 2 batteries) and there's no short. I also had a 12v car battery last 12 yrs, according to the label on the battery and Costco's records.

Things happen, especially with batteries. If I'm going to entrust my life to a battery powered device, I'm going to have 2 other backups for it just in case.
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