Submitted: Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 21:53
ThreadID: 2964 Views:3583 Replies:8 FollowUps:13
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Currently seeking information / opinions on the EPIRB. Value preferences and what I need to look for.
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Reply By: OziExplorer - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 22:06

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 22:06
Gavin there are basically two brands available in Australia.
One is the GME and the other is the PainsWessex. The Pains-Wessex is my personal preference, one of the main reasons being you can replace the batteries yourself and overall I feel it is a better manufactured unit and better value for money.
Yes, I am a great advocate of EPIRB's and wish more people would carry them while out bushwalking, 4WD'ing etc. etc.

You may find this link an interesting and informative read.
If you want more information or questions, just post back.

Pains Wessex website:

GME website:
AnswerID: 11307

Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 22:07

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 22:07
Apologies, the GME website is incorrect.
Here is the correct URL:
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Reply By: Darian - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 22:52

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 22:52
Gavin....I am a member of the VKS737 HF Radio Network - our newsletter just out has an article re Epirbs (you might know a member - possibly borrow it). Seems that Epirbs are developing like every other system. The 243 Mhz systems are slow, with poor accuracy and just old hat. The new 406 Mhz systems are being plugged as the new "must have" system.
Fast response times, and quite accurate, AND they can transmit your unique ID, so as identifying the posi and the owner of the unit....of course, prices are steep for the new system. Much as I know.
Bye the way Ozi, screwed the lid off my old RB2 the other day - very easy to gain entry - but the battery was buried in a well of hard glue - how to get out without wrecking the whole thing ? Cheers.....dp
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Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 07:45

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 07:45
Darian as for the 121.5/243 mhz systems being 'old hat', is well, not exactly correct. Sure, the 406Mhz are the new system, and yes, have some distinct advantages, but one of the main barriers is the price of these units and I am not so sure you can get one yet that is a personal unit.
Yes, the 121.5/243 mhz are slow, and can be 20 minutes and in most unusual conditions 2 hours before the signal is received. All commercial and many private aeroplanes carry receivers as well to receive the EPIRB signal.

Yes, a 406Mhz is preferable, but is it affordable to all and the issue of size for a personal unit.

e-mail Pains Wessex with 'Customer Service' in the Subject Line
and ask them. Didn't you get instructions with yours?
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Follow Up By: Darian - Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 22:01

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 22:01
Certainly Oz - point taken re prices - for battery replacement, Pains W simply invite clients to send the unit to the factory - $140 by the time it is back !! The transmitter is small and and is in the lid - for the $140 you get a new yellow body, with cord and battery already glued in. We only need the battery, but no specs or advice are offered re this........
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Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 08:35

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 08:35
Darian I just had a look, and my current EPIRB unit is actually a KTI

The previous unit that was stolen last year was a Pains Wessex. When I bought this replacement unit, the person on the phone said 'they now have user replaceable batteries' and remember looking at when I got it, and saw it was a different brand, but had forgotton.
This KTI most definitely has user replaceable batteries, I just read the manual.
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Reply By: Eric - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 23:21

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2003 at 23:21
I looked at the epirb option for a dangerous project I was involved in and decided that they were not the answer, there are a lot of old epirbs around and some are being set of by kids, the offical response is now to wait 2 hours to see if the signal persists. then a local police station is contacted to get an opinion as to the likely status of the beacon, if a search is initiated the cost of $3500/hour is payable by the beacon owner if the alarm is considered to be unjustified. My decision was to use a satelite phone with a gps to get a distress call out that could be acted on imediately with the rescuer having some idea of the problem.
I am not saying they are no good all I am saying is there are better ways.
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Follow Up By: Member - Richard- Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 02:24

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 02:24
If you have any other means of communication then thats what you should use. Any type of emergency beacon is just to be used as a very last resort when you have no other way to advise you have an emergency. I spent a lot of time driving and flying in the outback and there was always some type of ELT close by just in case everything went wrong.
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Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 08:18

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 08:18
If an EPIRB goes off in a built up city, then yes, it is investigated to see if it is a false alarm or not, but they do NOT wait 2 hours.
If an EPIRB goes off out at sea or on land that is not as part of a heavily populated area, the emergency signal is immediately acted on. NEVER ever does anybody wait 2 hours. All signals are investigated promptly. With the 121.5/243 Mhz models, the search area can be up to 20km, but in average conditions is around 10km. This is one of the advantages of the newer models the search area is significantly cut down.

They have the ability to charge the person who activated a beacon falsely, but so far they have not. Suggest you read their webpage correctly.

Yes, I have a satellite phone, but I also have an EPIRB. It is a bit difficult to carry a satellite phone when you are bushwalking or off-road motorcycling, especially on extended trips. Satellite phones chew battery power, and with them having rechargeable batteries that loose up to 3% of their charge not being used, you can easily end up with a flat battery. An EPIRB in many situations is still the best, and yes, I never go anywhere without my EPIRB.
Hopefully in the near future the 406Mhz beacons will get smaller for personal use and cheaper, but in the interim the 121.5/243 Mhz are affordable by everybody and still are a much in use.
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Follow Up By: Old Soldier - Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 09:31

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003 at 09:31
I agree with Oziexplorer about response times.

I was a professional Radio Operator in long range fixed communications in my time in the army, and as such was involved in many S.A.R. alerts to provide back up "direction finding" [D.F.] facilities at the request of the S.A.R authority in Canberra.

These S.A.R. targets were both on land and sea, and on one occasion an accidental triggering of a hijack alarm on a commercial aircraft en route from Darwin to Singapore.

The end result of that little incident was a full scale alert at Paya Lebar airport in Singapore, and a very red faced Greek pilot answering lots of questions on arrival :) :).

I can assure you there is no 2 hour waiting time when any emergency button is triggered.

I personally carry an EPIRB in the bush.

There was a very sad instance in the Toowoomba area about 18 months ago where a young but experienced bushwalker went on a solo bushwalk towards the Lamington Plateau from Toowoomba.

The poor young bloke slipped and fell down a cliff face injuring himself badly in the process.

He had a mobile phone with him and tried to call for help but his signal kept drifting in and out due to poor coverage area.

By the time he was missed it was too late. Search teams looked for days but by the time the young bloke was located he had died from his injuries and exposure.

Sadly, he may have been alive today if he had carried an EPIRB.

better safe than sorry

Enjoy the bush


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Follow Up By: Member - Cruiser1 - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 18:19

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 18:19
Must disagree, Ozi, but battery loss is rarely more than about 15 if they are in good condition. And any good satphone comes with an easy to carry 12v charger. Never need to be with flat batteries if you manage your equipment properly.

Satphones nowadays are as easy to carry as an EPIRB - and a whole lot more useful!

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Follow Up By: Member - Cruiser1 - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 18:20

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 18:20
Oops! typing too fast. Should be 1 %, not 15.
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Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 18:58

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 18:58
Cruiser I am only quoting what the Motorola handbooks states the battery loss can be at 35°C.

Yes, I have a 12vDC battery charger, but is a tad difficult to take with me when I am bushwalking - of which I do a lot. On my off-road motorcycle, I sometimes take my satphone, but if I am going into rugged country for more than a day trip, I take my EPIRB only.
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Reply By: Member - Bob - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 13:38

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 13:38
At $220 an EPIRB won't break the bank. I think thats what I paid for the GME. Make sure everyone in your group knows how to use it. Not much good if you're in a coma and no-one else knows where it is or how to use it.
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Reply By: Mark - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:02

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:02
According to Pains Wessex "The satellites which receive the 121.5mhz frequency will be discontinued from 1st February 2009. All EPIRBs which transmit to the satellite via 121.5mhz will become obsolete. This is due to the high percentage (97%) of false alerts" . A 406 MHz unit may be more expensive now but at least it will still be servicable after 2009 which is after all only 6 years away.
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Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:54

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:54
Mark where can you get a personal 406Mhz EPIRB unit from and price?
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Reply By: rabmail - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 23:28

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 23:28
Cruiser 1, I think comparing the use of a EPIRB and a Sat phone for use in an emergency is like comparing apples and oranges. If you have a Sat phone or HF or UHF to establish communication with someone then it is not really the type of emergency that the EPIRB is intended for.

The EPIRB or ELT is intended as a last resort in an emergency when you have no other way to contact anyone for help. It should never be used in any other circumstances as it causes a massive search to go into action.

You can be badly injured and all you have to do is hit the EPIRB switch and your signal goes out whereas you may not be in a condition to use a Sat phone or HF/UHF, or your equipment may not have survived the accident which caused you to be in the emergency situation.

If you don't keep your EPIRB close to you at all times (mine is tied to me together with a compass and a hand held GPS) then there is little point in having one. When you really need these things you are usually in serious trouble.
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Follow Up By: Member - Cruiser1 - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 05:06

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 05:06
I agree with you 100% about the circumstances in which an EPIRB should be used - as an absolute last resort. I have carried them for many years on land and at sea (or similar devices in pre-satellite days) so know their uses and their limitations.
However, there seem to be a lot of people who buy an EPIRB because it is a bit of gadgetry they need to have in order to feel 'safe' in the knowledge that 'someone' will come and find them. This is reinforced by the fact that they are relatively cheap as several people have pointed out.

Personally, I prefer my HF and satphone, as long as I have a number for the RFDS (one central number) and another for an appropriate police location. In cases of serious injury I want quick responses. I would rather be talking to someone to help me manage a serious casualty than wait for a plane to fly over and not being able to communicate with it.

My satphone batteries last for weeks if I'm not using it so I can go for a long time without having to charge it - and always carry a fully charged spare.

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Reply By: Gavin - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 10:58

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 10:58
Your outline covers precisely the reason for me contemplating purchasing the EPIRB- as an emergency ancilliary to cover circs. which supersede the other aids.
Are you recommending the hand-held version over that which is installed in the vehicle?
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Follow Up By: Rabmail - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 12:00

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 12:00

If I only carried one it would be a hand held one, just in case I am involved in an accident with the vehicle and the installation in the vehicle is damaged.

Also with the hand held it will (should) always be with you and not sitting back in the car. Accidents/emergencies are not planned and happen at the very worst time.
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Reply By: rabmail - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 12:04

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 12:04
Cruiser1, I agree with you entirely, if your Sat Phone or HF are working use them as the preferred method to call for help. I would do the same thing every time but I travel alone a lot if i am injured and can't use them then I hope the EPIRB is still within my reach.
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