EPIRB or PLB, which device is for me?


Being lost at sea, or anywhere in fact, is something which we would all like to avoid. Luckily for us, there are many devices on the market which enable our location to be traced, once activated.


As with all products, there are many different tracking devices available, which can get confusing when trying to determine which will best suit your needs.


If you are a boater, then you should know that by Australian law all recreational vessels are required to carry an EPIRB if you are two nautical miles from the mainland shore, or more than 400 meters from an island located more than two nautical miles from shore. This is unless you are within a Metropolitan exempt area.


EPIRB stands for emergency position indicating radio beacon, which is not to be confused with a PLB (Personal Location Beacon). Both of these devices have distinct functions and uses, depending on your needs, but ultimately will help you to be located in an emergency (more effectively for those with a GPS signal) once it has been activated.


An EPIRB has the ability to float upright, which is important in sending out a clear GPS signal from the Antenna. EPIRBs also remain functionable for a minimum of 48 hours, being activated and most effective, when in water. It is generally a larger device which is difficult to be carried on you at all times.


A PLB on the other hand, is much smaller and compact, but is only required to operate for a minimum of 24 hours, and although they are required to float, they won't necessarily float upright.


A PLB is not a substitute for an EPIRB required by law, although an EPIRB can be used as a PLB, the size difference often makes this an impractical option. It really depends on what you need the device for. When on a Boat and two nautical miles from land, obviously an EPIRB would be best suited to you. But when bush walking, 4 wheel driving, or undertaking other land based activities, a PLB is portable enough and suitable to be carried with you, at all times.


Some great examples of these devices are those pictured which are the KTI SA1G 406 EPIRB with GPS and the McMurdo Fastfind 211 PLB with GPS.


It is important that you never lend your EPIRB or PLB to somebody else. This is mainly because the device is registered with your personal emergency contact details and upon activation, these people will be notified. If they know that you are safe and not in danger, the person who has sent out the emergency may not be known to be in need of assistance.


What you are planning to undertake will determine whether an EPIRB or PLB is the device which could save your life.

For more information on these or any other location based safety devices, please do not hesitate to contact us at CH Smith, in store or online.


Ocean Signal EPIRB1 Pro (RDE657)
Safety Alert SA2GN PLB with GPS (RDE425)