Distress Beacons

About distress beacons

Safety, Distress Beacons

Monday 31 October, 2016

What is a distress beacon?

A distress beacon is an electronic device that, when activated in a life threatening situation, assists search and rescue authorities to locate those in distress. 

It is important to register your beacon as it allows the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to phone your emergency contact and look up important information to initiate a response as soon as possible

Registration is free and in some cases it is mandatory by law.

What types of distress beacons are there?

There are three different types of beacons:

Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) are for personal use by bushwalkers, 4WD drivers, other adventurers on land, employees working in remote areas, crew in boats and aircrew. This type of beacon is becoming more and more useful in a multi-environment (land, sea and air).

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) are usually for use on water.

Emergency Locator beacon (ELT) are usually for use on aircraft. However, EPIRBs and PLBs can be carried in place of an ELT.

Do I need a distress beacon?

At RAAus, we advise that all pilots should carry at least one of the above beacons in accordance with recommendations from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

For more information on the regulations relating to the requirement of carrying a beacon on board an ultralight or light sport aircraft please refer to The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Why do I need to register my beacon?

Once you have your beacon, you must register it with AMSA.

A registered beacon, when activated, allows Search and Rescue to call your emergency contacts and look up your information supplied. This means that they can start to look for you with as much information as possible as soon as possible. An unregistered beacon slows down this process, which will result in a delayed response. This could make all the difference in a life threatening situation.

When should I update my registration?         

Once you have registered your beacon it will remain valid for two years. You will need to renew the registration one month before it expires (AMSA does send reminder for renewals).

 You should also update your registration if:

  • Your contact details change,
  • You sell your beacon,
  • You buy a previously owned beacon, or
  • You lose, dispose of or have your beacon stolen.                                                                                       

Whenever your contact details or beacon details change, please update them online. Don't wait for your registration to expire before doing this because incorrect contact details can also delay the response.

Can I test my distress beacon?

Yes, you can test your beacon and you should to make sure it will be able to be activated when you need it most.

Every beacon has a self-test switch. Please ensure you follow the manufacturer's guidelines on how to perform a self-test and how often. Some manufacturers recommend that you self-test the beacon periodically, either once a month, or prior to a planned trip, however, over-testing can drain the battery.

Oops, I accidentally activated my beacon!

Turn it off immediately and call AMSA on 1800 641 792. There is no repercussion for an accidental activation.