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Switch to 406MHZ!!
by Anne F. Newton, United States Coast Guard

(March 11, 2009) - The International Cospas-Sarsat System is the sole provider of all distress alert and location data from distress beacons around the world. They provide this data through satellites and ground facilities and disseminate it to all Rescue Coordination Centers around the world. On 1 February 2009, they have ceased satellite processing of 121.5/243 MHz beacons. All beacon owners and users should replace their 121.5/243 MHz beacons with 406 MHz beacons as soon as possible.

This affects all maritime beacons (EPIRBs), all aviation beacons (ELTs) and all personal beacons (PLBs). However, other devices (such as man overboard systems and homing transmitters) that operate at 121.5 MHz and do not rely on satellite detection are not affected by the phase-out of satellite processing at 121.5 MHz.

Why Switch? Cospas-Sarsat made the decision to cease satellite processing at 121.5/243 MHz in response to guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). These United Nations organizations mandate safety requirements for aircraft and maritime vessels and have recognized the limitations of the 121.5/243 MHz beacons and the superior capabilities of the 406 MHz alerting system.

The digital 406 MHz beacons offer many advantages over analog 121.5/243 MHz beacons. With a 406 MHz beacon, the position of the distress can be relayed to rescue services more quickly, more reliably and with greater accuracy.

With a 121.5/243 MHz beacon, only one alert out of every 50 alerts was a genuine distress situation. This had a significant effect on the resources of search and rescue (SAR) services. With 406 MHz beacons, false alerts have been considerably reduced (about one alert in 17 is genuine) and when properly registered can normally be resolved with a telephone call to the beacon owner using the encoded beacon identification. Consequently, real alerts can receive the attention they deserve. This being said please make sure to register your EPIRB with up to date Points of Contact information! To find out more follow this link:

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