All boats operating beyond sheltered waters are required to carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).

An EPRIB is a compact, buoyant, self contained radio beacon which continuously emits a distinctive radio signal to a satellite for at least 48 hours when activated.

Make sure your EPIRB is GPS activated for better accuracy. Also ensure it is registered with AMSA. This is a legal requirement and will hasten any rescue.

When the signal is detected, the Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra initiates a response using locally based rescue services. EPIRBs should only be used as a last resort when in imminent danger. Other communications such as a radio and flares should be used first.

  • Ensure your EPIRB container is not cracked or showing signs of damage and batteries are within their shelf life
  • Use the test switch at least once a month to verify power
  • Keep accessible and dry
  • Extend or release the aerial to its full length
  • Allow the beacon to float free to the length of its attached line
  • Once activated, leave the EPIRB on until told to switch it off by a Search and Rescue (SAR) authority
  • For greater accuracy, an EPIRB with an inbuilt GPS is best

Once you have purchased your beacon, you must register it with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). Registration is free.

406 MHz beacons are much easier to locate as they are more accurate and also contain particular details about the vessel and its owner. Consequently false alerts can be resolved by a quick radio or telephone call.

406MHz personal locator beacons (PLBs) are available in compact sizes to enable them to be carried within the wet weather gear of yachtsmen and solo boaters. These PLBs are not recognised as the principal EPIRB on a boat as they are built to a different standard.

Visit the AMSA website for more information on distress beacons.

It is important to remember that once activated, the response to your EPIRB signal by a search and rescue authority may take many hours, especially if you are in a remote location.

EPIRB Registration

You must register your EPIRB with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

Registration is free and valid for two years.

More details on EPIRBs can be found on the AMSA website

EPIRB Disposal

121.5 MHz and 406 MHz EPIRBS must not be disposed of in household rubbish or refuse sites.

Attached are some step by step instructions for disarming various models of EPIRBS and also a video showing dismantling a GME 406 and also an SAI 406.