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EPRIB TESTING

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by LeslieTroyer, Apr 15, 2018. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. LeslieTroyer

    LeslieTroyer

    Joined May 20, 2016
    1,338 posts, 405 likes
    Catalina 36 MK1
    US Everett, WA
    How many use 406link.com for testing their EPRIB. 40 or 60 dollar plans. Tested my unit for the first time and somehow led flashes don’t seem enough.

    Les
     


  2. Ken Cross

    Ken Cross

    Joined Oct 24, 2010
    1,533 posts, 174 likes
    Hunter 30
    US Everett, WA
    Just don't test it for real. We would all worry.

    Ken
     


    LeslieTroyer likes this.
  3. LeslieTroyer

    LeslieTroyer

    Joined May 20, 2016
    1,338 posts, 405 likes
    Catalina 36 MK1
    US Everett, WA
    Not to worry there it’s just there is no way of knowing the test worked other than some led’s flashing. I like closed loop systems. Wondering if it’s worth the cash. Plus according to manual the should be professionally tested once a year. Like that is ever going to happen.
     


  4. SG

    SG

    Joined Feb 11, 2017
    854 posts, 126 likes
    J/Boat J/160
    US Annapolis
    To paraphrase that old joke with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin told about emergency parachutes,...

    No one ever complained that their EPIRB didn't work.
     


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  5. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,562 posts, 1,349 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    The bad sailor (semi-professional tester) might trigger the unit then call in a false event.

    It just makes sense that there would be a non costly way to test for function.
     


  6. JimInPB

    JimInPB

    Joined Aug 22, 2017
    579 posts, 161 likes
    Hunter 212 & 170
    us West Palm Beach
  7. All U Get

    All U Get

    Joined Oct 2, 2008
    2,419 posts, 215 likes
    Pearson/ 530
    US Strafford, NH
    Just had mine checked and batteries replaced.
     


  8. Screen Saver

    Screen Saver

    Joined Feb 15, 2008
    30 posts, 3 likes
    Hunter 49
    AU Sydney
    I have been cruising non stop for some 10 years. Mainly around the Pacific and Asia. I am one of those few people that test everything they possibly can, from automatic fire suppression systems, through DSC Distress, EPIRBS, auto activated PFD’s, Harness, Smoke detectors, Carbon monoxide detectors, etc. If its on my yacht I have FULLY tested it, with the exception of EPIRB. I have also followed up on a number incidents with the various accident investigation agencies in this part of the world (South Pacific Asia)

    In relation to EPRIB I pursued this in depth as much as loan private person can for quite some time with both manufactures and authorities after it came to my attention that fishing boat off the US coast had been lost, along with two lives, and the recovered EPRIB had been set off but no signal was ever received. This EPIRB was the same brand and manufacture as mine, then another in France. The numbers of definitive failures began to grow. Towards the end the French banned the GME unit and a recall noticed was issued for certain batches ( I believe worldwide), of which it was estimated about 50% of those that were recalled were actually returned. So there is still a bunch out there that MAY not work. Recently a member of the Volvo team has been sadly lost at Sea. Unfortunately I do not have the facts to this incident, but its worth noting that it is stated he had all his safety gear on at the time (excluding the harness) including a new custom designed PFD Lifejack specifically for the race which is said to include both personal EPIRB, and AIS, yet there it would seem no positional information was available and he was not recovered.


    As far as standard testing goes by the owner I can tell you that in the case of two manufactures that testing is almost worthless and amounts to little more than an inferior battery test at best. It does not even turn on the transmitter, nor does it obtain a GPS position lock, pathetic in my view. it simply applies power to a microprocessor. There is absolutely no reason the manufactures could not easily add better testing, to at least obtain a GPS lock and fire up the transmitter all be it they cannot transmit. The architecture in place is outdated and even if the manufactures did offer to include some live testing in their product, the infrastructure would be saturated given the number of EPIRB’s that are out there and the current architecture.


    The authorities responsible for monitoring these are effectively 20 + Nations each with their own subset of rules, resources and area under a fairly lose worldwide umbrella. When your EPRIB is set off the global satellite system will re-route your distress information based on its inbuilt hex code imbedded in the unit to area where the unit was purchased, “irrespective !! “ of any registration information, or lack there off. It does NOT go to the country where the boat is, nor to where its registered, unless they all happen to be the same. So if as in my case the EPIRB was purchased in Australia, and the boat registration has been moved to New Zealand, and say I am in Malaysia, that is very problematic, and I would not hold my breath for a rescue The call will automatically go to Australia. Based on ships name and international registration being NZ, they will attempt to hand over responsibility to NZ as it is a NZ registered Vessel, but New Zealand would not see the distress information because it will have been routed to Australia. Australia will take a lot of convincing (believe me) to hold your EPIRB registration details when its an NZ registered boat and could well have deleted it. There answer is buy new NZ EPIRBs costly & difficult when you’re not in NZ. This whole registration issue and hard hex coding also applies to MMSI, and DSC. So if you have these disparate issues you may never get past the first hurdle and you most certainly should check directly with your authorities.


    Once they know who you are, and have tried the various contacts you should have listed, to make sure that you haven’t just tossed it out, in our example Australia will contact Malaysia and advise them the location and position information, and it will now be up to Malaysia. In the past responses from Malaysia and presumably any equivalent country have taken a day or two, and ended with we don’t have a boat, couldn’t find a ship etc. By which time if you are still alive your EPIRB has probably stopped sending out its position and the battery is now flat. There are number of these cases reported as well. In my case and I STRESS this is against all advice from RCC and the authorities, I will be turning my EPIRB off every hour, so 1 hour on, 1 hour off. Max time to get a lock is 15 min, so in the first hour it should have sent the position information out at least 4 times. At least my way it should not run out of battery before they find me.

    When I dug into all of this, I was advised there are live tests done of the system approximately every year or when any major software change is done. This test requires all participating countries to agree and as you can imagine that in itself would be a challenge. I tried to get my unit to be the initiating unit of this test and while I got close in the end I was unsuccessful. From there I moved to suggesting point blank what will happen if I accidently trip over the unit and it goes off. You can imagine they weren’t impressed with that suggestion, but in fact disclosed that if it was a real case of accidently triggered and if I called them before any rescue services had been dispatched it was highly likely that I would not be significantly fined if at all. My last option which I believe would work if one was still determined to test the unit would be to set it off inside the microwave or some appropriately contained RF cage along with any 406mhz receiver. This would at least confirm the unit can transmit.

    Personally anyone cruising other than coastal stuff around a well setup major city/country should not be relying on any one piece of equipment like an EPIRB, and you should assume it will fail, for no other reason other than insureing you have an alternative. In my case VHF & HF DSC, and Satelite emergency distress on Sat phone

    I hope this helps.
     


  9. LeslieTroyer

    LeslieTroyer

    Joined May 20, 2016
    1,338 posts, 405 likes
    Catalina 36 MK1
    US Everett, WA
    Kinda makes me glad I went with an AIS solution for my PLB and not a 406 solution.

    Les
     


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  10. Gunni

    Gunni

    Joined Mar 16, 2010
    4,841 posts, 827 likes
    Beneteau 411 Oceanis
    US Annapolis
    Screen Saver; You need to update your EPIRB with one that does signal self tests. They do in fact work on the 406link.com system and a signal is sent and if the device is in good order, you will know it. Your evaluation of how this works is incorrect. You should also know that SARSAT services vary widely around the world. Attempting to compare SAR services in the Indian Ocean to elsewhere as proof the devices don’t work is not relevant to most users.
     


  11. JimInPB

    JimInPB

    Joined Aug 22, 2017
    579 posts, 161 likes
    Hunter 212 & 170
    us West Palm Beach
    +1
     


  12. Screen Saver

    Screen Saver

    Joined Feb 15, 2008
    30 posts, 3 likes
    Hunter 49
    AU Sydney
    Hi Gunni, I would be interested to know exactly which part of what I said is incorrect so I can adjust my thinking, so if you could let me know. Also perhaps you could correct my thinking in regards to link406. It is my understanding that this is or perhaps was, just a closed loop satelite system which in fact does NOTcover the world (says there website). The link406 prdomantly covers the US. There are a number of these systems, SPOT is argueably a lessor version again, but these services are not diretly as in automated linked to any of the RCC groups and they dont have a direct feed, nor do they have the coverage.
    Again if I am mistaken please specificaly correct me.

    Thanks
     


  13. Gunni

    Gunni

    Joined Mar 16, 2010
    4,841 posts, 827 likes
    Beneteau 411 Oceanis
    US Annapolis
    The 406link test service covers most of the Atlantic and Pacific basins and do in fact test the signal T/R capability of EPIRBs that have the signal self test mode. It just works, and it identifies your position on a digital report to demonstrate your functional capability. In an actual emergency how the alert signal is handled depends on the capability of the nation SAR resources. This happens even here in the Atlantic where the SAR resource you get is likely coordinated by the robust US Coast Guard even when nearby to a Caribbean nation. All this said, mixing a critique of the technology with a critique of the national/human response capability only confuses the situation. Sounds like you have a real mess there in the downunder. Your best bet may be to register your EPIRB in a competent country (Aus or OZ) and have your ground contact coordinate the SAR response asking for tracking data and involve your nation’s navy. I would not trust Malaysia to do it right, if they had one of mine in a SAR you can bet I would be riding them closely.
     


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  14. JimInPB

    JimInPB

    Joined Aug 22, 2017
    579 posts, 161 likes
    Hunter 212 & 170
    us West Palm Beach
  15. Screen Saver

    Screen Saver

    Joined Feb 15, 2008
    30 posts, 3 likes
    Hunter 49
    AU Sydney
    Yes ok perhaps we will agree to differ. I am aware of the 406link capabilities features and competitors but it is useless in this half of the world, basically just North and South America. The actual operation from the time you push the button on a conventional EPIRB does operate in the manner I described and it is universal across the world, including Malaysia, or the US or Australia because the system is identical in each of the 20+ regions around the world. This includes the co-ordination and everything up to the physical response. Sadly not all countries have the same resources (boats plains ships etc) to respond as say the US, UK, and Australia and this is where some of the less fortunate countries struggle. So your 406link EPirb or any Epirb for that matter is only as good as the countries physical resources in the response area.

    But I think we have covered Les’s original question, youre link solution would work for anyone in the US.
     


  16. LeslieTroyer

    LeslieTroyer

    Joined May 20, 2016
    1,338 posts, 405 likes
    Catalina 36 MK1
    US Everett, WA
    So @Screen Saver do you pay the $60/year for the 406link??? Or do you rely on the led flashes??

    Haven’t heard anyone here say they use the service
     


  17. DrJudyB

    DrJudyB

    Joined Jun 25, 2004
    141 posts, 65 likes
    Corsair F24 Mk1
    003 US San Francisco Bay, CA
    Just a few anecdotes:

    I’m located in North America. My marina is very close to a to a CG installation and a US navy installation. We have good rescue services here.

    15 years ago, I accidentally set my old-technology EPIRB off at the dock. I tipped it over sideways without disarming it and that caused it to activate automatically without my realizing it had happened. The coast guard or navy (I forget which it was) showed up walking my dock (on foot, no boat) very very quickly with some tracking gizmo in hand and pinpointed my boat amongst 500 others in the marina. Their response was impressive! I’ve been a believer ever since.

    A few years ago, a friend of mine who is a licensed captain and instructor got sunk by a whale in his 50 footer coming back from Hawaii with a bunch of paying customers aboard. They were rescued in short order. Everyone was safe and healthy bc the captain was well prepared and had drilled the passengers on emergency procedure

    I wear a 406-PLB on my PFD when I single hand. Actually it stays there permanently.

    I’ll look into the mob ais option for double handing As well.
     


    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
  18. Screen Saver

    Screen Saver

    Joined Feb 15, 2008
    30 posts, 3 likes
    Hunter 49
    AU Sydney
    Les, The Link406 is no good outside the US so no I do not pay the $60.00 There are competitor options but as far as I am concerned they add another level of interaction there fore risk, just as the Link option does. So no I do not use the competor options. At this moment I rely on a collect set of emergency equipment and sadly yes the light is part of that.
    The right answer depends on where you intend to sail in the world, and what exactly your trying to cover. In my view if it is say you and your wife around in the US, Gunni solution I believe is fine, and even arguably better because it has other features. I however would not be relying on private enterprise or the link 406 solution if you were planning to venture beyond the US. The personal EPIRB, in my view is not good solution either, there battery life is also typically half. Lets face it the majority of cruisers are husband and wife. Statically more lives are lost by people going over the side. If the wife goes over the side the with the Personal EPIRB it will be almost useless to you for many reasons. You are far better off with a personal MOB/AIS System which in my case will sound an alarm should my other half go over side and put a way point on my lotter instantly. If this had worked for the Volvo sailor he would have been picked up within a few minutes because those on board would know exactly where he went over the side. The Personal EPIRB requires you to have some communication with any of rescue services who have the position information, because you don’t have it at your fingertips, assuming you can get it at all in time.

    If you have some other immanent threat to life on board, more often than not you will have at least enough time to hit one DSC button which will be useless if only VHF/AIS based and more than 30-50nm away from another boat or land. HF DSC solves that issue. In my case should something happen instantly, ie the keel falls off, god forbid, its likely my standard EPIRB will be stuck on board and I won’t get a chance to activate it. I have a second one installed in my life raft pre packed. Because I also do a fare bit of solo sailing I have connected my MOB to my autopilot as well. So if I go over the side, the auto pilot will be disengaged and eventually it rounds up. If you or anyone is interested in my thoughts for their situation I am happy to provide shall we say an alternative view to ponder.

    I wish you fair sailing.

    Regards Alan
     


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  19. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,562 posts, 1,349 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Alan. You indicate you use a personal MOB unit. Can you share the manufacturer?
    Is this an option of the unit or did you have to fabricate the connection? If the latter how did you do it?
    Does it work with a specific plotter?
     


  20. DrJudyB

    DrJudyB

    Joined Jun 25, 2004
    141 posts, 65 likes
    Corsair F24 Mk1
    003 US San Francisco Bay, CA
    @Screen Saver
    I know very little about MOB/AIS systems. What does your MOB/AIS system consist of? And what does a basic but competent system consist of?
    Thanks.
    Judy
     



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