Coast Guard bans two types of beacons

December 28, 2006 11:00 pm

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate Staff writer

Because of their unreliability, the U.S. Coast Guard is prohibiting use of two types of emergency radio beacons beginning Monday.

The beacons 121.5 and 243 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons are notorious for sending signals in situations that are not emergencies, according to a press release from the guard.

The guard wants boaters to replace them with beacons that operate at 406 MHz, whose signals are picked up by the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System.

That system provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world.

"Only one alert out of every 50 is a genuine distress situation," the release states. "This has a significant effect on expending the limited resources of search and rescue personnel and platforms."

The beacon ban also comes because a satellite that processes the distress signals they send will stop doing so Feb. 1.

When a 406 MHz signal is received, search and rescue personnel can get information from a database they access. The information includes the beacon owner's contact information, emergency contact information and vessel or aircraft identifying characteristics.

Armed with the information, the guard or other rescue personnel can respond.

The guard is the lead agency for coordinating national maritime search and rescue policy and is responsible for providing search and rescue services on, under or over international waters and those within U.S. jurisdiction.