In 2017, a total of 275 people were rescued within the United States and its surrounding waters, thanks largely to NOAA satellites, which are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System, or COSPAS-SARSAT. This system uses a sprawling network of spacecraft to detect and locate 406 MHz distress signals quickly from emergency beacons aboard aircraft, boats and from handheld personal locator beacons, or PLBs.
Beacon registration is free, easy, and is required by law! Federal law requires that all emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), personal locator beacons (PLBs), and emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) be registered in the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database. This system is free to all owners of EPIRBs, PLBs and ELTs. When beacon user/vessel or aircraft owner information changes, it should be updated online at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov or by contacting the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database at 1-888-212-SAVE (7283). This information is protected and only available to authorized rescue personnel if a distress activation occurs.
Beacon registration is valid for two years; owners are required to validate their beacon information every two years to ensure currency of their contact information. Up-to-date beacon owner information allows for the most efficient use of SAR resources upon beacon activation and can decrease rescue response time during distress situations.
If your EPIRB or PLB is accidentally activated, contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 1-855-406-USCG (8724) and provide them with the beacon’s ID to cancel the false alert. If your ELT or PLB is accidentally activated, contact the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at 1-800-851-3051 and provide them with the beacon’s ID to cancel the false alert. Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel begin responding immediately to every activation of a 406 MHz SARSAT beacon. That response will only stop if it has been proven that the activation was not a distress alert. Every false alert has the potential to put rescuers in harm’s way and waste limited Search and Rescue resources. Cancellation of false alerts helps protect SAR personnel who would be activated during an actual emergency, and ensure valuable resources are available to respond to actual distress cases.