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Boats must upgrade beacon to be heard


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POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2009

Warning to boaters in distress using the old analog Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons after this month: The Coast Guard won't hear you.

Beginning Sunday, the Coast Guard and other search and rescue operations will no longer receive the old analog distress signals.

They will only receive distress alerts broadcasting the digital 406 MHz signal, the Coast Guard said last week.

Boaters with analog EPIRBs (portable radio beacons) will want to upgrade to the digital EPIRBs, which have a signal 50 times more powerful than the analog 121.5/243 MHz beacon.

“;This transition will reduce the number of false distress alerts and allow search and rescue resources to give real alerts the attention they deserve,”; said Lt. Danielle Renoud, a search and rescue coordinator stationed at the Coast Guard District 14 Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu. “;The 406 MHz beacon is superior to the 121.5/243 MHz beacon because the location information is more accurate and the signal carries registration information with it.”;

Proper registration will allow search and rescue personnel to retrieve owner contact information, emergency contact information and the vessel's identifying characteristics from a database.

The Coast Guard says new EPIRBs that include built-in Global Positioning System receivers broadcast more accurate position information.

The two main types of EPIRBs are units that are designed to float free from a sinking boat and will automatically activate themselves, and units that are manually activated by someone on the boat.

The Coast Guard recommends carrying the 406 MHz beacon and keeping contact information updated on the beacon registration Web site.