National News

Heading outdoors this long weekend? Check your distress beacon!

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is encouraging distress beacon owners to check their beacon’s registration and battery expiry date before heading outdoors this long weekend.

Many people own beacons – outdoor and adventure enthusiasts, recreational boaties and people with personal watercraft, commercial vessel owners like fishers and tour operators.

Australia has one of the highest beacon rates per capita in the world, with nearly 644,000 beacons registered in Australia as of 1 May 2020.

“Many of us are keen to enjoy the beautiful weather outdoors this weekend,” AMSA Acting Response Centre Manager Les Parducci said.

“Now is a great time to do some basic checks on your distress beacon before you head out.

“Log-on to amsa.gov.au/beacons to update your beacon’s registration details, including emergency contacts and other vital information that will help us coordinate a fast and effective search and rescue if the worst happens. It’s free.

“Check the battery expiry date on the back of your beacon – if it’s expired, contact your local battery shop to have it professionally dismantled and disposed of, or check if the manufacturer provides instructions on how to do it yourself properly.

“Like mobile phones and batteries, beacons can’t just be thrown into your general waste bin. Not only is it bad for the environment, it also results in valuable search and rescue resources being wasted chasing accidental beacon activations in tips around the country every year.”

Mr Parducci said the process of updating a beacon’s registration details online and checking the battery expiry date on the back of the beacon only takes a few minutes.

“It’s a simple and quick thing to do which will give you peace of mind when you’re out and about in the great outdoors this weekend,” he added.

For more information, visit amsa.gov.au/beacons or call the beacon registration helpline on 1800 406 406.

BACKGROUND

There are three types of beacons used to alert search and rescue authorities like AMSA to an unfolding emergency:

  • Personal locator beacons (PLBs) which are typically used on land;
  • Emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) which are typically used on the water; and
  • Emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) which are used in aviation.

BEACON ACTIVATION AND REGISTRATION STATS

Total beacons registered in Australia as of 1 May 2020 = 643,924

  • It is estimated that 30% of beacons in Australia are unregistered.
  • Registered beacons by type:
  • Approximately 69% of registered beacons are EPIRBs.
  • Approximately 29% are PLBs.
  • Approximately 2% are ELTs.

Only 19% of all Australian beacon activations in 2019 were real distress situations, which means 81% of activations were non-distress situations such as:

  • Mishandling, mounting failure or weather events (50%)
  • Hoax or malicious activations (2%)
  • Other factors such as test activations, interference etc. (29%).

Of the real distress situations in 2019, about 18% of those involved an unregistered beacon which resulted in search and rescue crews knowing next-to-nothing about the vehicle, vessel or plane they were searching for and who might be on board until they arrived on scene. That’s why registering your beacon and keeping those details up to date is so important.

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