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How EPIRB and PLB Rescue Works

  1. Distressed mariner activates a beacon (EPIRB or PLB).
  2. Beacon transmits a 406 MHz emergency message containing your Unique Identifier Number (UIN) to the LEOSAR (polar orbiting) and GEOSAR* (geostationary) satellite system; set up by Sea Tow Foundation for you at time of rental.
  3. The satellites relay the 406 MHz emergency message to a ground station called the Local User Terminal (LUT). The LUT calculates the location of the signal by measuring the Doppler shift caused by the relative movement between the satellite and the beacon and forwards the location to the Mission Control Center (MCC).
  4. The MCC continues to receive information from additional satellite passes and further refines the beacon position (2.3 nm search radius). An alert message is generated that is combined with the registration information from the database and is forwarded to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).
  5. The RCC makes contact with the persons listed in the database to verify the existence of an emergency and gathers additional information about the beacon users. The RCC will dispatch the closest, capable Search and Rescue (SAR) forces. Local SAR forces launch a rescue mission and use the 121.5 MHz homing signal to pinpoint the beacon.

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* On average, worldwide, this notification (steps 2 through 5) take up to one hour for non-GPS beacons. Beacons rented by Sea Tow Foundation made by ACR Electronics are GPS self-locating beacons that provide GPS position data in their first transmissions, the search radius is reduced to .05 nm (100 m) and the notification can take as little as three minutes. Data provided by Cospas-Sarsat.

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Rent an EPIRB or PLB – It’s Easy!

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Thank You for Supporting This Program!

Thank you for supporting The Sea Tow Foundation Beacon Rental Program. Our EPIRB and PLB Rental Program was made possible from a generous donation from ACR Electronics. Funds raised by this program are used to grow all Sea Tow Foundation programs including: Beacon Rental Program, Designated Sober Skipper Campaign, and Life Jacket Loaner Program.

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