Club Marine eNews

New-tech life-savers


From Club Marine Magazine, a look at devices that could save lives in an emergency at sea

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) are distress beacons that are used to alert search and rescue services in the event of a life-threatening situation. They transmit a signal on the 406MHz distress frequency via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue coordination centre.
EPIRBs must transmit a distress signal for at least 48 hours, and PLBs for at least 24 hours. A GPS-enabled device can provide your location to within 120m of your position. The signal transmitted on the 121.5MHz short-range frequency acts as a homing signal for the rescue service.

PLBs are carried by individuals, while EPRIBs are kept on a boat or vehicle.

When activated, personal AIS beacons (PABs – also known as AIS Man Overboard devices) show up on plotter screens of vessels, indicating bearing and distance of a man overboard.
Personal AIS beacons
These devices work with AIS plotters and DSC-compliant VHF radios. They’re especially useful on crewed yachts, enabling the crew to become the rescuers. Some PAB models operate underwater, which is useful for diver rescues.

ELECTRONIC DISTRESS FLARESElectronic distress flares
Electronic distress flares are a safer and longer-lasting version of pyrotechnic flares, with the newer varieties using powerful LEDs to transmit rescue signals for several miles.

Useful features to look out for are the ability to float, long battery life, and a high number of omnidirectional LEDs.

Satellite Emergency Notification Devices (SEND) are emergency notification and locating devices that use commercial satellite systems rather than the international government-based COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system. These are subscription-based systems.

For mariners, products by communications company Iridium (which uses the Iridium satellite constellation) are particularly useful because of their global coverage.

Tracking devices give GPS positions of vessels globally and include other vital functions, such as SOS alerts. While global usage requires satellite capabilities, some use the local GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phone networks.

Most devices interface with Google Maps to give incremental positions. The higher-specification ones have extensive functionality, including anchor watch (geo fencing), SOS alerts, shock sensors (for collisions), preloaded messaging, two-way communications and security options.

NIGHT-VISION GEARNight vision gear
The latest infrared cameras can identify anything that gives off heat, making it easier to identify other vessels or locate a person in the water. More expensive infrared cameras are gyro stabilised for accurate viewing when underway. A good zoom function is another useful feature, as is the colour imagery on high-end devices.

ELECTRONIC KILL SWITCHESElectronic kill switches
Boaters who tend to forget to wear the kill cord, which would shut down the engine in a MOB situation, might consider an electronic kill switch. Most of the electronic options simply plug into existing kill switches.

HF/VHF – AIS AND DSCMarine radios
High Frequency (HF) radio is a long-range communication tool and a fairly sure way of alerting the world if you are in trouble.

Very High Frequency (VHF) radio is line-of-sight range only, but some marine radios have the optional DSC emergency button that combines GPS, so can send an alert to nearby vessels.

Taken from a story in Vol 33.1 Club Marine Magazine.