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Old 13-09-2010, 13:13   #1
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EPIRB

This has surely been discussed before, if so, please redirect me.
EPIRBs and PLBs are available in a price range from $300 to $1000. What am I buying here? Does a cheap 406/1215mzh PLB have the same signal strength or whatever as an expensive EPIRB? Or is the extra price for auto activation and cheaper and easily replaced batteries? I am a mechanical person, ie;an electronic dinosaur.!
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Old 13-09-2010, 21:43   #2
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The primary difference seems to be battery life. A PLB battery should last 24 hours. A EPIRB battery much longer. How far from shore are you going? Are you sure they could mobilize a rescue operation and location you under 24 hours? Will you be in warm water (batteries last much longer in warm water)?

If so, a PLB should be fine. If not, splurge for the bigger battery.
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Old 13-09-2010, 22:22   #3
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I saw a PLB with GPS on sale for $200. not bad!
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Old 14-09-2010, 01:29   #4
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You want an EPIRB first. PLB, SPOTs, etc. are really supplementary to the EPIRB. That's my opinion, but one I share with Practical Sailor.

Articles you might want to check out or find the issues:
April 2010:
What is the Best Backup for a 406 EPIRB?

July 2003: 406 MHz EPIRBs

And a good from NOAA:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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Old 14-09-2010, 03:25   #5
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There are quite a lot differences; most are subtle, but some may be important to you. The following is not an complete list, just what I can drag up from memory ().
EPIRB's have to have a minimum battery life of 48 hours, PLB's only 24 hours.
EPRIB's have to float, PLB's don't have to, but many do.
EPIRB's are designed to have the best radiation pattern when floating in water while a PLB should radiate OK while in a pocket or on belt etc.
Transmit power is same on both (at least for the 406 transmitter) but coding is slightly different so that the RCC can tell what type of unit it is.

FWIW, IMO find the extra money to get a unit with an internal GPS.
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Old 14-09-2010, 06:26   #6
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EPIRB's have to have a minimum battery life of 48 hours, PLB's only 24 hours.
That's only for GMDSS approved versions there's no such stipulation for leisure ePirbs. Though most do follow the specs. Also most modern plb's are as good as an epirb. They are essentially the same.

Make sure you get a Gps based one

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Old 14-09-2010, 09:12   #7
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I would never consider a PLB to be a substitute for an EPIRB unless one is staying within a couple of hours of shore, where the water is reasonably warm.

I would add that I have never seen an EPIRB for sale in the U.S. that did not meet the 48 hour battery life standard. Of course, there could be EPIRBs sold elsewhere in the world that don't.
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Old 14-09-2010, 09:54   #8
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I'd recommend an GPIRB, especially if the unit has a built-in GPS receiver. The fact that the GPIRB will broadcast the last GPS position upon activation (simple model) or currently with the onboard GPS means the RCC can determine with better accuracy your location based on activation time.

To me, the PLB is for man overboard while the GPIRB is for abandon ship - both serious but both different.
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Old 14-09-2010, 12:28   #9
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I got a PLB with GPS for half the price of an 'EPIRB' without a GPS.

I can't tread water for 48 hours.

I spent the saved money of another safety device. An empty beer barrel to keep me afloat. I couldnt buy an empty one so I had to get a full one.....
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Old 14-09-2010, 12:32   #10
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Someone (practical sailor?) did a test of a bunch of EPIRBs. A few of them didn't work so well. Does anyone have that link? It was as simple as more features + more money = more safety.
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Old 14-09-2010, 14:54   #11
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The only primary difference now between PLBs and Epirbs is battery life , ie the case size, plb have 24 hours and epirb 48. In practice this is fairly insignificant as you are detected within the first hour or so.

Both devices have the same transmit power etc on 406Mhz

Im not suggesting thats one replaces the other , when I sail the boat has a float free epirb and I wear a ACR PLB.

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Old 14-09-2010, 15:08   #12
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Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
Someone (practical sailor?) did a test of a bunch of EPIRBs. A few of them didn't work so well. Does anyone have that link? It was as simple as more features + more money = more safety.
Back in 2004 the McMurdo GPIRB (EPIRB + GPS) had a problem with GPS performance in rough water. They recalled the affected units and upgraded or replaced them. After the fix they tested very well. I have not heard of any EPIRB issues since then.

Another difference between EPIRBs and PLBs it that the PLB registration form doesn't have as many entries for emergency contact information. My EPIRB form lets me give landline numbers for emergency contacts, and a satphone # for the boat. The PLB form only has space for one or two landline numbers.

This is actually a semi-big deal if you have a false-alarm inadvertent activation of a PLB, as the Coast Guard (or equivalent authority) has no way to contact you on the boat to see if it is a genuine emergency. I can state from personal experience that a PLB is easier to accidentally trigger than you might expect. Fortunately my wife was at home at the time, and she gave the USCG my satphone number.
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Old 14-09-2010, 15:38   #13
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The PLB form only has space for one or two landline numbers.
funny I registered my satphone no. against my PLB no problems

Quote:
can state from personal experience that a PLB is easier to accidentally trigger than you might expect.
actually with water activated EPIRBS, I disagree, and I know to my cost. (PS , dont fix an epirb with wet clothing)

Dave.
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Old 17-09-2010, 15:58   #14
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I am new here, but here is a quick synopsis:

EPIRBs float in an upright position to transmit (perform best when floating)
PLBs float so they won’t get lost, some need pouch to float. (They need to be held out of the water or attached high up on PFD for best transmission)

EPIRBs transmit for a minimum of 48hrs at temps down to -40C or -20C (Longer in nominal temps)
PLBs transmit for a minimum 24 hrs at temps down to -20C (Longer in nominal temps)

EPIRBs can be manually activated in or out of their bracket or automatically activated when out of the bracket and in the water
PLBs are manually activated

EPIRBs have a strobe light
PLBs are not required to have a strobe (some newer versions have flashing LEDs)

EPIRBs are designed to be mounted in a bracket or carried in a ditch bag
PLBs are designed to be worn or carried on your persons

EPIRBs are registered to the vessel
PLBs are registered to the person and are legal to be used on land as well

I would also add that if you are out on the boat by yourself, a PLB strapped to your body is better than an EPIRB in a bracket if you go overboard. If you have competent crew that could activate an EPIRB in your absence, then an EPIRB is the way to go.

Please remember you need to be prepared to survive the environment you may find yourself in. The further off shore you go, the longer it will take rescuers to get on scene. An EPRIB floating in the water attached by its tether is easier to manage than holding a PLB in the air. I would also suggest that if you have a PLB then find a way to strap it to your life jacket in advance. (Up in the collar bone area) Treading water with one arm up in the air will be very tiresome.

Both are required to be registered with NOAA. It’s quick, easy and free and can be done online athttp://www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov/
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Old 17-09-2010, 18:59   #15
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funny I registered my satphone no. against my PLB no problems
On the registration form there appears to be no way to provide an emergency contact number having anything but a 3-digit area code. I can't get my Iridium 4-digit country code to be accepted. I did put the satphone number in the "Additional Information" box, but when my PLB was accidentally triggered the USCG called my wife at home, and they did not seem to have my satphone number available. My wife gave them the satphone number and it all worked out well.

Quote:
actually with water activated EPIRBS, I disagree, and I know to my cost. (PS , dont fix an epirb with wet clothing)

Dave.
Well, I suppose any accidental triggering is unfortunate. That's one reason I installed the ACR ARX-50 Crew-Overboard Alert receiver, so we can tell if someone actvates their PLB (or one of our EPIRBs), either on purpose or by mistake:

Of course the main reason for the receiver is to help in a MOB situation. My crew all wear PLBs inside their inflatable PFDs. It's not the perfect MOB solution, but neither are any of the other systems. Being tethered to the boat is the first line of defense.
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