Every year on April 4 (4/06) a worldwide campaign promoted by ACR Electronics, Inc. called 406 Day raises awareness about safety devices called Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) and Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB). These use a 406 MHz frequency to connect to a constellation of National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) satellites that can alert a ground station that a vessel or individual is in distress and requires immediate assistance while continually updating the user’s position.
What’s the difference Between an EPIRB and a PLB?
An EPIRB is registered to a boat while a PLB is registered to an individual. PLB are typically smaller and are less expensive than an EPIRB. The advantage of a PLB is you can take it with you anywhere and can be used as long as you have an open view of the sky to summon help with the press of a button. They do however need to be kept up and out of the water either mounted on a life jacket or held in your hand unlike an EPIRB which works best while floating in the water. EPIRBs will additionally send alerts for a minimum of 48 hours, while PLBs are only required to send alerts for 24 hours.
Registering Your 406 MHz Device is Important
The first important step to take after buying a 406 MHz device is to register it by creating a user account with the (NOAA) Beacon Registration website. It’s free, takes just a few minutes and could help save lives in an emergency. Should a person activate their device, the first place responders go to is the registration database to find out more about the person or vessel connected with the unique user ID that’s also transmitted with the 406 MHz signal.
The registration isn’t just a one-and-done procedure, it’s an active account boaters can use to add a float plan for a specific trip in the Additional Data text field, including precise times of departure and expected return, planned routes, vessel type and color (picture how your boat looks from above), along with passenger information including any existing medical conditions.
Periodically, Test Your 406 MHz Device
It’s important to periodically self-test 406 MHz devices. On ACR units like the ResQLink™ View, a “T” button activates the test and coded LED/Strobe light flashes let the owner know if the unit is functioning, has sufficient battery power and that the GPS can acquire a satellite lock.
April 6, or 406 Day, is the perfect day to show you are a safety-conscious boater by taking a selfie with your 406 MHz beacon and share on your social media account with the hashtags #406Day21 or #beaconssavelives.