EPIRBs and PLBs – Which one will save your life?

by Ian Kuhl on May 4, 2016

in Chandlery, Featured, Fishing Adventures, Franklin Marine, Marine Safety, Sailing Adventures, Weather

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An EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) or PLB (Personal Locating Beacon) has one purpose – to save your life in an emergency – and to get you back home to your family by sending your geo-location to the search and rescue teams at AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority).

What’s the difference between an EPIRB and a PLB?

An EPIRB has a minimum 48 hour run time. This is the type that is required to be aboard when you are more than 2 nautical miles offshore.

A PLB has a minimum run time of 24 hours. This is what you wear when you are offshore or bushwalking.

GPS – Why do I need it?

The EPIRBS and PLBs we sell are all GPS enabled. This means they have a maximum search area of 5 square metres.

Units without GPS have a search area of 5 square kilometresthat’s a lot of ocean, and enough space to fit 900 football fields! 

Scary fact: 45% of distress beacons registered with AMSA are not equipped with GPS.
Source: AMSA

Wondering whether your distress beacon has GPS? It will state on the unit whether or not is has GPS.
If your beacon does not have GPS, we seriously recommend replacing it with one of the beacons below.

Many older EPIRBs are now close to or past the battery date, and some are even past the expected lifetime.

Whilst some can have new batteries fitted, this is usually over half the price of a new unit with GPS. As such, it’s really not worth while changing batteries unless your unit has GPS.

Franklin Marine only sell GPS enabled EPIRBs and PLBs manufactured and tested in Australia. We do not stock units that are made in China and Europe – or that do not have GPS technology. These can have batteries successfully changed after 10 years.KTI EPIRB

KTI’s Safety Alert SA1G EPIRB with GPS is our distress beacon of choice, and for good reason:

  • Manufactured in Australia by Australian company with Australian support
  • 10 Year Battery Life
  • 10 Year Warranty
  • 20 Year Life Expectancy
  • 66 GPS Channels – Accurate within 3m, not 100m or worse
  • Continuous GPS location updates sent every 5 minutes – other brands update every 20 minutes if at all
  • Transmits for 3 days instead of 2 like most others
  • Approved for operation both in and out of water
  • No warm up time

KTI also make the Safety Alert PLB which is our PLB of choice, again for good reason:

KTI PLB

  • Same 10 year battery life, 10 year warranty and 20 year life expectancy as its larger EPIRB counterpart
  • 66 GPS Channels ensures the same 3 metre accuracy as the EPIRB and the same 5 minute update interval
  • Buoyant
  • Will withstand corrosion in salt water
  • Transmits GPS, 406MHz and 121.5MHz signals
  • Very small and light compared to others on the market
  • Comes with impact-resistant case, whistle and signal mirror
  • Powerful high-intensity LED Strobe
  • Transmits for at least 24 hours

The aerial on any PLB should be vertical to the water for a correct ground plane.

These are the only distress beacons we supply and recommend because they are the only ones we feel confident are going to save your life in an emergency.


Do you have an EPIRB and/or PLB as part of your vessel’s safety arsenal? If so, go get it out of the box and make sure you know what to do in an emergency. It is also worth checking the expiry date, which you should find somewhere on the side of the unit.

If your unit is not equipped with GPS – ask yourself this: Is it worth the money saved if rescue teams have to scour 900 football fields worth of ocean to find you?

If your EPIRB or PLB is out of date and you need a replacement, or if you’re looking to go offshore soon and don’t have one – talk to our friendly team who can set one aside for you in the shop, or have one delivered straight to your door.
Call Now: (03) 6266 3768

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