Ahead of the busy summer holidays, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is calling on owners of distress beacons to take care when handling, storing and disposing unwanted distress beacons after 1748 beacons were accidentally activated in 2021.
Distress beacons like emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) and personal locator beacons (PLBs) can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.
Distress beacons are easily activated, by the flick of a button or in some cases, water immersion, to signal for help.
When activated, Australian search and rescue crews gear up to save lives.
AMSA Response Centre manager Kevin McEvoy said every year these crews also waste precious and potentially lifesaving time chasing beacons which have inadvertently activated.
"Beacons are sensitive pieces of equipment that need to be handled with care," Mr McEvoy said,
"Preventing a time wasting and embarrassing inadvertent activation is easy."
Mr McEvoy recommends the following for storing distress beacons:
What happens if your beacon has inadvertently activated?
"You'll notice the strobe light is flashing and an audible beep. Switch it off quickly - if it has a water sensor, dry it - and contact AMSA on 1800 641 792 to call-off the search and rescue," Mr McEvoy said.
"If we detect your beacon, we'll also try to contact you. Always keep your beacon's registration details up to date which includes your phone number and next of kin's contact details."
Beacon registration is free and, in some states, mandatory by law. Jump onto www.amsa.gov.au/beacons to update your registration details.
While there are no penalties for inadvertent activation, Mr McEvoy said getting the basics right of responsible beacon ownership helps ensure that critical search and rescue resources don't go to waste.
"After all, if you're in a genuine emergency and you activate your beacon, you want to know that a crew is looking for you and not broken beacon in a bin," Mr McEvoy said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.