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January 05, 2009

EPIRB changeover starts next month

The 406 MHz signal is 50 times more powerful than the 121.5

Beginning next month, search-and-rescue satellites will no longer process the 121.5/243 MHz signal transmitted by older analog EPIRBs.

The Coast Guard is reminding mariners to replace these EPIRBs with the newer 406 MHz beacons by Feb. 1. The 406 MHz signal is 50 times more powerful than the 121.5, allowing better detection and providing a more accurate search area for rescue authorities, according to the Coast Guard.

Also, the number of false alerts with digital beacons reportedly is significantly lower than with analog units. Satellites are incapable of distinguishing between beacon and non-beacon sources using analog frequencies, resulting in only about one in five alerts coming from a beacon, according to the Coast Guard. False alert signals can come from ATMs, pizza ovens and stadium scoreboards.

EPIRB users can register their beacons in the U.S. 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov or by calling (888) 212-SAVE.