June 14, 2022
United States Boat Owners Association
The proliferation of personal locator beacons (PLBs), whose small size belies their enormous safety advantage on the water, are no longer considered exotic life-saving electronics. “PLBs are user-friendly and easy to maintain, and we’re seeing more and more boaters using them as a consumer lifesaving device,” said Ted Sensenbrenner, deputy director of boating safety for the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. .
However, do boaters fully understand the difference between a PLB and its larger cousin, the Emergency Position Indicating Rescue Beacon (EPIRB)?
The BoatUS Foundation offers a four-question true-and-false safety quiz to help boaters understand the benefits of each.
- True or false? You can use a PLB instead of an EPIRB for your vessel.
Fake. “A PLB doesn’t tick all the boxes,” Sensenbrenner said. “Some boaters think they can substitute a PLB for a vessel-specific EPIRB and have similar safety benefits. This is a mistake.
A PLB is designed to be small and easy to carry, and it has smaller batteries with a shorter life compared to an EPIRB. Perhaps, more importantly, only EPIRBs activate automatically upon immersion. The best setup for heading to a far end of the lake or the wild end of the coast is to have an EPIRB assigned to the boat, and individual PLBs for each crew member.
- True or false? The best place to attach a PLB is the belt loop of your pants, the chest pocket of your weather jacket, or the zippered pocket of a life jacket.
True. To take full advantage of a PLB, it must be securely attached to the user’s body. All of these attachment points are good as long as there is a firm connection – a clip, snap ring, lanyard, or other securing device. If you decide to connect it to an inflatable lifejacket, make sure that the PLB will not interfere with its inflation.
- True or false? Cell phone communications have improved so much that a boater does not need a PLB to call for emergency help.
Fake. Although cell phones are an acceptable secondary means of calling the Coast Guard, unfortunately more and more boaters today use them as their only way to call for emergency help. This is where the problems start, especially when there is no VHF radio on board. Cell phones fail for a variety of reasons that a PLB will not. Unlike a cell phone, an accidental fall overboard, a dying or drained battery, or the absence of a nearby cell tower will not negatively affect your chances of rescue.
- True or false? For personal watercraft (personal watercraft such as jet skis), a PLB is a better choice than an EPIRB.
True. This is because PLBs, unlike EPIRBs, are manually activated and do not activate when wet, a common occurrence when operating a personal watercraft. PLBs are also an excellent choice for paddle boat operators and adventurers.
The cost of a PLB starts at around $300. For boaters who have a temporary need for an emergency beacon such as a long-distance race, adventure regatta, deep-sea fishing tournament, or summer cruise, the BoatUS Foundation offers GPS-enabled PLBs available for rental at 7 $ per day and EPIRBs for only $10 per day and weekly rates also available. Renting from the Boat US Foundation eliminates the need to register the device with NOAA before your trip. Your vessel’s data is seamlessly provided to US Coast Guard lifeguards to ensure a quick response if needed.