PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

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PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by TechnoEngineer » Mon Nov 07, 2011 12:24 pm

Hi all

Do people carry a PLB, and EPIRB, or both, and what do they consider to be the relative merits and disadvantages of each?
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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by Ian_Montrose » Mon Nov 07, 2011 7:09 pm

I carry a PLB - a McMurdo FastFind 210 to be precise. My understanding is that EPIRBs and PLB are devices that transmit on 406Mhz, a frequency reserved worldwide for distress signalling and monitored by governmental agencies. As I understand it, the main difference between EPIRBs and PLB is simply that EPIRBs are designed to be attached to vessels whilst PLBs are intended to be carried by individuals.

I think the real question is should SPOT be referred to as a PLB and I believe the answer to that is no. Whilst it has it's merits, and offers functionality not found on PLBs/EPIRBs, SPOT does not transmit on 406Mhz and the user is dependent on a private agency to intercept their distress signal and appropriately engage local SAR resources. Another consideration for me is that SPOT carries a risk of the batteries being drained whilst utilising its tracking functionailty and not being sufficiently charged should you ever need it in a life-threatening situation.

Pros and cons for each. PLB much more reliable for emergency use but doesn't do anything else. SPOT offers a means of letting shore contacts track your progress, sending non-emergency requests for help and can also be used in an emergency though is not in the same league as a PLB for that. It's down to the individual to decide what's appropriate for them - one or the other, both or none at all. We make it more difficult for people to make an informed decision of we give the impression that SPOT is a PLB in the true sense of the word.

Finally, let's not forget that neither SPOT nor PLB are a get-out-0f-jail card and possessing such devices should not be a substitute for doing everything we can to avoid ever needing outside assistance. Sometimes shit happens though and if it does I'd rather have the real deal and not be relying on an ops room belonging to a private company on the other side of the Atlantic.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by Billy The Fisherman » Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:02 pm

I have a dual frequency PLB. As mentioned in the good reply above, the EPIRB is more for attaching to a larger boat. VHF would be my first choice of emergency equipment and the PLB if the VHF was out of range.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by Paul Barrett » Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:49 pm

Lifes depend on these devices. A fllow paddler spoke of his spot misplacing him in a thunderstorm .Thats no good

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by TechnoEngineer » Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:51 pm

Um - surely a SPOT is going to use much the same technology (i.e. GPS) as other PLB/EPIRB devices? I'd like to know more about that....
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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by GrahamKing » Mon Nov 07, 2011 10:16 pm

Ian_Montrose is right. SPOT is not a PLB.
PLBs, and their big brothers, EPIRBs, are part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), and will alert HM Coastguard promptly via Falmouth MRCC, with your identity and position. The position might not be to GPS precision, unless the PLB is of a type that incorporates a GPS receiver.

SPOT is entirely different, and might alert someone, eventually, maybe.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by JohnA » Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:26 am

PLB is much the same technology as EPIRB, but smaller. This generally means reduced battery capacity and shorter transmission times. Most PLBs do not transmit long enough to meet the requirements to be called an EPIRB hence a different name for the same technology. Typically this amounts to 24 vs 48 hours at low temperatures. EPIRBs are also required to float upright with the antenna clear of the water. PLBs generally don't do this so if you find yourself swimming, you will have to hold it up clear of the water with the antenna reasonably upright, unless you buy or make a floatation collar for it.

Both EPIRP and PLB simultaneously transmit a 121.5 MHz homing signal too which allows rescuers to pinpoint your location even in poor vis. Spot does not do this. Spot uses similar technologies but different resources, so different satellites, commercial ones. They're not made to be compliant with the same standards as EPIRB and PLB. Some great features, yes and some people will feel that it meets their needs as well as a PLB, but they are different and it's worth looking carefully to see which is best for you.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by Nick P » Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:40 am

Just for info:

RNLI inshore lifeboats (D and Atlantic class boats) do not carry either VHF direction finding or PLB locating equipment.
RNLI All Weather Lifeboats (big blue and orange jobbies) do.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by tommfuller » Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:59 am

Nick P wrote:Just for info:

RNLI inshore lifeboats (D and Atlantic class boats) do not carry either VHF direction finding or PLB locating equipment.
RNLI All Weather Lifeboats (big blue and orange jobbies) do.

Nick
My understanding is that the SAR aircraft do too.

I'm another McMurdo FastFind 210 carrier. There are two downsides I can find in it versus a full-fat Epirb : First is the reduced battery life, rather than the 48 hours you should expect from an epirb, it'll only go for 24hrs...which I would hope to be longer than I'd need.
Secondly the PLB won't float on it's own and continue to work - it means it needs to be held, perhaps with two hands to hold the antenna out, a bit of a drawback in a heavy sea.

Cheers,

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by tg » Tue Nov 08, 2011 6:45 pm

Another vote for the McMurdo, I carry mine in my BA in such a way that floating on my back it's held in the advised position in the front pockrt otherwise there's a place reserved on deck. It's never occurred to me that SPOT would equate to a PLB but I can see where you're coming from. If someone's watching they're watching. Direct contact is not neccessarily a prerequisite for the emergency services. In fact standard advice to let 'someone' know. Last time I looked; No SPOT, no Yukon 1000!

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:34 pm

Image
I have had an ACR Aquafix 406 with GPS for 7 years. I have it secured to the front of the BA but this one floats. It is probably better on your person than in your day hatch. You need to register your details, boat type etc and VHF call sign with Falmouth. At 5 years I paid to have the battery replaced and the unit tested by Sartech. Not all PLBs have built in GPS units. These will not give your position as quickly as those with onboard GPS. I carry two day night flares, one in BA pocket and one in day hatch but I have stopped buying rocket flares.
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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Mark R » Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:44 pm

Douglas Wilcox wrote: I have stopped buying rocket flares.
That strikes me as an inexplicably irrational decision.
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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by MikeB » Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:02 pm

Douglas Wilcox wrote:Image
I have to say this picture epitomises the modern day, techno paddler! Mike.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:27 pm

Mark R>
That strikes me as an inexplicably irrational decision.
Several reasons:

I found one to be a damp squib when I tried to let it off at a Troon Cruising Club/Coastguard practice session. It still had a month before it expired and had been stored in a dry yacht locker.

Gordon Brown nearly lost both hands letting one off on a demo....

Image
The canister slipped through his wet hands and Simon Willis has a video showing Gordon "holding onto" the rocket's explosion. This was a flat water exercise. These are dangerous things!

A lot of places we paddle have uninhabited coastlines and few if any boats.

It is increasingly difficult to dispose of time expired rockets.

My PLB has a self test button, which I use to check its function once a month. I have not found a rocket flare with a self test button.

My PLB will transmit for 24 hours, the rocket parachute flare Gordon let off lasted less than a minute.

The operator who gets the PLB/EPIRB emergency signal will act on it. The person who sees the rocket might think it bis the Star of Bethlehem.

Boots>
modern day rich paddler!!
Very true Boots but in my defence, I save a fortune on rocket flares. Also the Tilley hat is 9 years old, the kayak is 6 years old and standard grp, the PLB is 7 years old, the Kokatat anorak and BA are 7 years old, the waterproof Sony camera in the BA only has 2mp and is 9 years old. The whistle is off by old sailing life jacket and is 22 years old. The newest bit of kit is the paddle which is 1 year old. The annual expenditure is not that great and I don't smoke or drink (much).

Douglas :o)

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by PhilAyr » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:53 pm

Boots>
modern day rich paddler!!
Very true Boots but in my defence, I save a fortune on rocket flares. Also the Tilley hat is 9 years old, the kayak is 6 years old and standard grp, the PLB is 7 years old, the Kokatat anorak and BA are 7 years old, the waterproof Sony camera in the BA only has 2mp and is 9 years old. The whistle is off by old sailing life jacket and is 22 years old. The newest bit of kit is the paddle which is 1 year old. The annual expenditure is not that great and I don't smoke or drink (much).

Douglas :o)
Well said Douglas !

I am curious to know what a modern day poor paddler looks like ! :-)

Phil

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by TechnoEngineer » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:58 pm

Douglas Wilcox wrote:Gordon Brown nearly lost both hands letting one off on a demo....
The canister slipped through his wet hands and Simon Willis has a video showing Gordon "holding onto" the rocket's explosion. This was a flat water exercise. These are dangerous things!
Yep - when I did a test firing exercise with the RNLI a couple of years back it struck me how a number of devices needed two hands to operate, as well as them supplying us with heat-insulating gloves to hold a day/night flare, which felt pretty bloody warm even with those on.

At the risk of derailing my own topic, has anyone kept abreast of the laser flares?
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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Nick P » Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:41 pm

Douglas Wilcox wrote:
I found one to be a damp squib when I tried to let it off at a Troon Cruising Club/Coastguard practice session. It still had a month before it expired and had been stored in a dry yacht locker.

Gordon Brown nearly lost both hands letting one off on a demo....

Douglas :o)

Yep. Over the last 20 years I've fired dozens of rocket flares (white illuminating rather than distress) and had far too many duds, misfires and plain haywire flares. Scary stuff!
In addition, when we fire them on RNLI training, we obviously liaise with HMCG. The 999 response to flares can be worryingly low - and thats on the S Cornwall coast, so fairly well populated.
Training tomorrow night, so will check the dates and maybe try some of the older ones.

Nick

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Mark R » Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:44 pm

All help-summoning devices have their own respective limitations.

To conclude that carrying one kind negates the need for other kinds is dubious at best.
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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Nick P » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:00 am

Mark R wrote:All help-summoning devices have their own respective limitations.

To conclude that carrying one kind negates the need for other kinds is dubious at best.

Absolutely!

The more and varied options the better. I'm just really put off paras for the reasons above.
Day/night flares and plain old handheld reds or smokes seem (in my experience) more reliable, but clearly don't have the range of paras.
As ever, its down to the individual and where they're paddling (inshore v offshore, remoteness etc).
Pays yer money, takes yer choice.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Fast Pat » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:28 am

Mark R wrote:All help-summoning devices have their own respective limitations.

To conclude that carrying one kind negates the need for other kinds is dubious at best.
Just how much kit do you want to carry to enusre you have covered every eventuality - you will need a original Cetus or other barge!

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by JohnA » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:24 am

PhilAyr wrote:
I am curious to know what a modern day poor paddler looks like ! :-)

Phil
I see one in the mirror every morning :(

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:28 am

Nick>
The 999 response to flares can be worryingly low -
[img]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-iPkv ... 940DEW.jpg[/img}
This one fired at dusk in liason with HMCCG burned for 50 secs and drew no 999 calls.

Mark>
To conclude that carrying one kind negates the need for other kinds is dubious at best.
Despite carrying a PLB on a kayak, I still carry a whistle, a signalling mirror, chemical hand warmers for use at night for helicopters' thermal imaging cameras, a strobe light, a bright LED torch, 2 day night flares, mobile phone in waterproof case and a VHF.

When I was sailing we generally had about 5 parachute distress flares aboard, it's generally reckoned that before a member of the public does anything at least 3 need to be fired but a recent exercise (August ) on the Solway, in which at least 10 red para flares were fired, drew no 999 or channel 16 calls from the public or mariners.

I just don't think a rocket parachute flare is a particularly practical distress signal for me to use to use from a kayak or in the water. Everyone has to make their own mind up what to carry when going to sea and it is generally recommended that you carry them. Just make sure you don't kill your pal with one. Remember that scene in JAWS?

Douglas

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both

Post by mick m » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:00 am

TechnoEngineer wrote:Um - surely a SPOT is going to use much the same technology (i.e. GPS) as other PLB/EPIRB devices? I'd like to know more about that....
Having yoused a spot mesinger on trips Iv found them to be to unreliabel , ther run by a bisnes not an emergancy cervice , hear in astralia AMSA is a guvernment organisation with all the resorses that entails, spot rely on mobile teliphones and internet , ther also not recognised by the Aust guvernment as a resque device, and by lore we have to cary a EPERB of shore , Paddlers get away with a PLB , with all the talk on this subject, I fiard of my spot in the back yard about three howers ago , still wating fr the text mesage or email to get through .

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by mick m » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:07 am

PhilAyr wrote:
Boots>
modern day rich paddler!!
Very true Boots but in my defence, I save a fortune on rocket flares. Also the Tilley hat is 9 years old, the kayak is 6 years old and standard grp, the PLB is 7 years old, the Kokatat anorak and BA are 7 years old, the waterproof Sony camera in the BA only has 2mp and is 9 years old. The whistle is off by old sailing life jacket and is 22 years old. The newest bit of kit is the paddle which is 1 year old. The annual expenditure is not that great and I don't smoke or drink (much).

Douglas :o)
Well said Douglas !

I am curious to know what a modern day poor paddler looks like ! :-)

Phil
Phill, I resembal that remark, and suprisingly I look much the same ! a bit taller, a bit yonger and with a full face of hear !

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:31 am

Whoops mucked up the link:

Nick>The 999 response to flares can be worryingly low -

Image
This one fired at dusk in liason with HMCCG burned for 50 secs and drew no 999 calls.

Image
What about day/night flares?

Image
The day end of a day night flare burns producing smoke for all of 5 seconds.

Image
the night end also burns for 5 seconds.

I view these as location aids and wind direction aids for when I think the helicopter is close enough to see them.

Although I carry a variety of devices to raise the alarm I am not likely to set them off unless I REALLLY am in the shit. I dislocated my knee on Gunna, busting all the ligaments except the lateral and my twisted knee was compressing the arterial supply to my lower leg. I calmly put myself back together again, then paddled for two days and nights back to Ardnamurchan.

Douglas :o)

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by tommfuller » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:33 am

Mark R wrote:All help-summoning devices have their own respective limitations.

To conclude that carrying one kind negates the need for other kinds is dubious at best.
You're right, but I don't think that was the conclusion; it's not a direct trade. Rather than focus on the one thing which someone has chosen to omit, one needs to look at the entire list of safety systems (a long list which would include; primary, secondary and tertiary sections and things like training, experience, equipment, partners, local knowledge, meteorology and so on) and how they build up layers of protection to reduce the probability and severity of a set of possible outcomes.

Cheers,

Tom.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by snapper » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:29 pm

I have the McMurdo Fastfind GPS. It sits in a pouch fixed to my right chest strap. It has a neoprene case that allows it to float and has a cord attached to the lanyard ring which has a carabiner attached to a ring with more cord coming down and attaching it directly to the BA. I can remove it to rinse after a session and can access it and hold at arm's length when/if required.It is also to hand. It's there for when my VHF lets me down. My miniflares I have no faith in and my handhelds are fine if i'm still with the boat (in which case I would be less likely to require rescuing though it is a possibility of course).

I got the McMurdo at the Southampton Boatshow for £165 (offer) and can send out a distress signal anytime up until the battery dies (replacement after 5 years). SPOT Messenger is £120 upwards plus 99 euros PA to subscribe...That to me makes the McMurdo far cheaper and a more 'comforting' safety device to carry and quite frankly I don't want my wife to know where I am half the time.
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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Ian_Montrose » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:43 pm

snapper wrote:...That to me makes the McMurdo far cheaper and a more 'comforting' safety device to carry and quite frankly I don't want my wife to know where I am half the time.
Or be cunning and have her thinking she knows where you are half the time. Leave it in the office whilst you take a sneaky day off work to go paddling and she's none the wiser!

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Ian_Montrose » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:54 pm

I thought about doing away with my flares when I got VHF and later a PLB. However, I figure they still have a place. Not every vessel has VHF, and not all that do actively monitor it. A flare might just attract assistance from someone nearby who would otherwise be completely unaware of your predicament.

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Re: PLB - vs - EPIRB - vs - both^

Post by Nick P » Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:46 pm

Ian_Montrose wrote:I thought about doing away with my flares when I got VHF and later a PLB. However, I figure they still have a place. Not every vessel has VHF, and not all that do actively monitor it. A flare might just attract assistance from someone nearby who would otherwise be completely unaware of your predicament.
Ian,
I think you hit the nail squarely there in plain language. Its having a range of tools for the job under the prevailing circumstances.
The EPIRB/PLB route might be described as convoluted, together with a time and/or position delay depending on whether or not its GPS enabled. If there are other vessels in sight VHF or flares could give a much more direct route to assistance than the EPIRB/PLB.

Alone and/or in a remote area, the reverse could be true.

I do not currently own an EPIRB or PLB but that may well change. I carry VHF, phone, whistle and flares together with strobe, torch and have SOLAS tape on boat/paddles.

Nick

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