The Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon

    Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons are designed to send distress alerts on 406MHz without intervention by ships' personnel. Such alerts are initially received by a geostationary satellite and retransmitted to Rescue Co-ordination Centres. Subsequently, polar-orbiting satellites determine the position of the transmitting EPIRB.

    EPIRBs are usually mounted in holders in exposed locations, so that they can float free of obstruction if a vessel founders. The holders are not normally on view, and so if an EPIRB is dislodged from its immobilizing magnet, or falls into the sea, it becomes armed and sends its distress message without those on board being aware that it has done so. In some years, up to 97% of distress alerts have been false alarms.

    Rescue Co-ordination Centres will then attempt to contact the ship, but if contact is not established very quickly, full search and rescue procedure is implemented. This is always expensive. It can result in ships being diverted, and may involve helicopters or long distance flights by fixed-wing aircraft if the position indicated is in mid-ocean.

    To avoid unnecessary disruption to shipping and rescue services, and possibly substantial fines for the shipowner, all that is needed is a Standguard EPIRB Alarm in the wheelhouse, to warn the officer of the watch when a distress alert transmission has taken place in the immediate vicinity.