EPIRBS (Emergency Beacons for short)
A bureaucrat got hold of the name of this for sure. They are electronic beacons but the tongue-tying name in full is Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. They can save your life at sea.
The EPIRB is a very ruggedly built radio transmitter which is activated in an emergency. They are only to be used when other means of rescue or communications have failed. This means that your VHF (of HF for that matter) radios have FAILED. They may have failed because they are underwater or your mast, yacht mast/rigging antennas have been smashed/broken or are also underwater.
You can use the EPIRB if you are in danger of sinking, or if you have a life-threatening accident or medical emergency. If you are in doubt, but strongly feel that you are in serious trouble use it anyway.
Before you get into trouble, indeed before you leave shore, read up on the shiny new EPIRP you have bought from us. You will need to be familiar with the device well before you need it. You will not have time to read the instructions when you are sinking.
WHAT DO EPIRBS DO
Before you use this product, you must register your EPIRB and its unique code with the authorities. You can do this online.
If you get into trouble your EPIRB will transmit a signal which will automatically identify you (as you registered your EPRIB).
It will send a signal out for around 3 days at least. Before you need it, the internal battery will last at least 10 years. Some EPIRBs have GPS which tells rescuers exactly where you are. Some also transmit on 121.5MHz which is the aircraft distress frequency. And most these days have a strobe light, which helps locate you at night.
All in all, an EPIRB is truly fantastic product that hopefully will never be needed but will probably save your life if it is.
Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)
These are basically similar to an EPIRB, but are for wearing on your person. You can use them for ocean use, or even if you are flying in a small aircraft, but the overwhelming application is for outdoor exploration on land such as bush walking.
Like an EPIRB you have to register the unit with the authorities and you should be fully familiar with the PLB before you need it.
If you get into trouble (for example you may break a leg from a fall incapacitating you) and you cannot walk to safety. You simply activate the unit and a rescue party will find you. Its really as simple as that.
You really should never go into the wilderness without one.