Essential EPIRB Testing Tips for Mariners

Proper maintenance and inspection are critical to ensuring that your Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) functions effectively in an emergency.

Ensuring your EPIRB works reliably when needed involves routine testing, adhering to servicing requirements, renewing registration every two years, and understanding replacement and disposal protocols.

Routine EPIRB Testing and Inspection

You should conduct monthly tests on your EPIRB to verify its operational readiness.

This involves using the integrated test circuit and output indicator to ensure the device is functioning correctly.

Each model of EPIRB is different so you must become familiar with your device and follow the self-testing procedure found in the owner’s manual.

The inspection process should also include a physical examination of the EPIRB housing, checking for any visible signs of damage or defects that could impair its ability to function.

The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center specifies that for 406 MHz EPIRBs, it is important that they are mounted in an unobstructed ‘float free’ manner to facilitate automatic activation.

For Category 1 EPIRBs your monthly inspection should also include checking that the HRU is in date and free of any damage or defects.

EPIRB Annual Test and Servicing Requirements

Annual servicing is a requirement for 406 MHz EPIRBs as part of the SOLAS regulation IV/15.9, which includes a volume of annual beacon testing described in IMO MSC.1/Circular 1040.

During the servicing, a thorough check is performed to confirm that the EPIRB meets the necessary performance standards.

It is essential to carry out this servicing concurrently with the Annual Safety Radio Survey, which may include shore-based maintenance as needed.

Replacement and Disposal

An EPIRB’s battery life is limited and must be replaced before its expiry date to guarantee proper functioning.

When replacing batteries, it is imperative to use the manufacturer-approved type to ensure that the beacon continues to meet performance standards.

Disposal of old batteries must be done under environmental regulations.

If your EPIRB is equipped with a Hydrostatic Release Unit, it must also be replaced regularly by following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Lastly, when an EPIRB is no longer serviceable or past its expiry date, it should be properly disposed of; you can consult manufacturers or local authorities for guidance on the correct disposal procedure.

Emergency Plans and Preparedness

A robust emergency plan includes an EPIRB, alongside comprehensive training for all crew members.

To effectively integrate an EPIRB in your emergency plan, consider the following steps:

Mount an EPIRB: Ensure a 406 MHz EPIRB is mounted in a float-free manner on your vessel, free from obstructions.

Registration: Register your EPIRB with the proper authorities to ensure faster response times in the case of activation.

Periodic Testing: Conduct tests as per IMO guidelines to confirm the EPIRB’s functionality.

Inform the Crew: Make sure all crew members on board know the location and operation of the EPIRB.

Regular training ensures you and your crew can act swiftly and efficiently.

Activation: Familiarize yourself with both manual and automatic activation procedures.

Mock Drills: Conduct regular drills simulating emergencies to practice the deployment and use of the EPIRB in coordination with survival craft.

Signal Understanding: Understand how distress signals are relayed to search and rescue services through GOES weather satellites, Inmarsat E, or GNSS systems.

Maintenance: Learn monthly EPIRB inspection procedures as outlined in the USCG’s guidelines.

Frequently Asked

Yes, there are. When you test an EPIRB, you must adhere to the guidelines set by maritime safety authorities. These include performing self-tests as outlined by the manufacturer’s instructions and ensuring no false alarms are sent during testing. For the full set of guidelines, see the IMO’s recommendations.

The first 5 minutes in the EPIRB test procedure are crucial. This is when the device performs its self-test functions to verify the RF (Radio Frequency) signal and GPS functionality.

This period is essential to ensure your EPIRB can accurately transmit your position to the search and rescue services promptly. For details on testing procedures, you can visit Emergency Beacon Testing by the U.S. SARSAT Program Steering Group.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.