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'Accidental': Rescue crews on wild goose chase for boaties

TOSSED: Old but still working beacons are causing havoc in Gladstone waters as rescue crews waste time on false alarms.
TOSSED: Old but still working beacons are causing havoc in Gladstone waters as rescue crews waste time on false alarms. Mara Pattison-Sowden

INCORRECT disposal of EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) continues to take vital resources away from real emergency situations.

In Queensland last year, there were 247 activations because of incorrect disposal, hoax or other non-distress situations, according to Australian Maritime Safety Authority statistics.

AMSA adviser for safety and distress alerting systems Linda Berryman said their primary concern with non-distress beacon activations was not the dollar figure attached to them.

"The main concern is that these search and rescue operations make vital assets unavailable for use in real emergency situations," she said.

"It is not possible to generalise about the cost of tasking assets on search and rescue operations. Every tasking is unique, from the assets involved to the duration of the operation, and the costs vary just as widely."

FALSE ALARMS: Unintentional pleas for help are drawing emergency response unit away from real jobs.
FALSE ALARMS: Unintentional pleas for help are drawing emergency response unit away from real jobs. Contributed

However, despite the high number of non-distress activations, there were 78 distress situations when EPIRBs were set off.

"Distress beacons save lives," Ms Berryman said.

"When activated properly in a life-threatening situation, a registered GPS distress beacon can help AMSA and other rescue authorities to find you.

"In some cases, carrying a beacon is required by law. For example, in most states in Australia it is mandatory by law for boats travelling more than two nautical miles from land to carry a registered EPIRB."

Volunteer Marine Rescue Gladstone's Doug Savage said it was essential to register your beacon with your boat.

"If it's not registered we don't know who we're looking for," he said.

"The moment you buy it, take it home, read the documentation, jump on the net and register it."

There are two types of EPIRBs, one has a GPS, which makes it easier for people to find you.

Both AMSA and VMR recommend this one.

Mr Savage said EPIRBs had an expiry date.

Once an EPIRB's life is finished, Ms Berryman said proper disposal was vital.

"Beacons can be accidentally activated if they are not disposed of correctly," she said.

"This often occurs when beacons are thrown in the rubbish and end up in tips.

To get rid of an EPIRB, bring it to VMR Gladstone on Alf O'Rourke Dr.

Topics:  amsa australian maritime safety authority gladstone gladstone region vmr volunteer marine rescue


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