Life Raft & Survival Equipment - EPIRB or PLB
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03-26-2008, 09:03 AM
Recently I received many e-mails requesting quotes on hand held PLBs and a lot of questions on what would be best for the sailing they do. I thought it may be a good idea to try to answer these questions in this posting. EPIRBs are water activated and PLBs are not. EPIRBs have a strobe and PLBs do not. EPIRBs have a 48 hour continuous signal and PLBs have 24 hour. Both work on the same GPS technology and have a 5 year recommended battery replacement because beyond 5 years you cannot guarantee the 48 or 24 hour signal. An EPIRB is registered to your vessel for sea travel and a PLB is registered to the person and can be used on land or sea. When your LAT/LONG location is transmitted by a PLB the appropriate Search and Rescue is sent, in a sailors case, the USCG. Here is where I like to point out that with an EPIRB they know immediately they are looking for the vessel “Mary Jane” at the co-ordinates they received. With a PLB, they are looking for “John Doe” at the co-ordinates they receive. In your profile when registering your PLB you can notate the name of your vessel or make changes if you go boat to boat. Does this make a difference? Well it depends on how we look at what actually happens when either of these units is activated. Think of how the process works, the command center receives the co-ordinates via satellite from an activated unit. If it was an EPIRB, they know immediately the vessel “Mary Jane” is in distress. They send out a distress signal to any ships or boats who can receive it that the vessel “Mary Jane” is in distress at this LAT/LONG location. There is a good chance another boat or ship will help before the Coast Guard gets there. A PLB will work the same way except they are looking for “John Doe” and although you can put your vessel name in your profile when you register, someone may not update their profile when they go on a different vessel. Not a huge difference, the USCG will still be coming but if you travel beyond 20 miles I recommend an EPIRB and inside that a PLB is a good fit. PLB’s are compact so you can clip it on so you don’t have to scramble for it, but I would recommend you buy a good strobe for your life vest. For a quote of special pricing send an e-mail to me at [email protected]
and keep in mind I will quote on any safety gear you may need including life rafts.
www.lrse.com LIFE RAFT & SURVIVAL EQUIPMENT – SALES – SERVICE - RENTALS
01-05-2009, 09:20 AM
Very interesting comparison. Well done. However, if I ever need a rescue, it's ME I want them to find, not the "Mary Jane".
Second, today's PLB's have the same signal transmission life as EPIRBS. Battery life has been extended as well.
Finally, cost. PLB's are less expensive. I would rather have someone buy a PLB because it's affordable than not buy anything at all due to price.
One disadvantage to the PLB, that you already mentioned, is that it must be handheld, horizontally, out of the water. That could get tiresome. While some PLB's float, they are not designed to be allowed to float in the water and transmit.
Good report with only a slight bias towards EPIRBS.
01-06-2009, 07:27 AM
Very good reply! At the time of my posting the PLB's on the market had only a 24 hour battery life and you are correct that the lithium batteries have been upgraded to handle a 48 continuous transmission. I couldn't agree more that I wouldn't want cost to be the decisive factor in not purchasing either one. Another great function of the PLB is it's global positioning use. How many times have you read or heard of someone who drove off the side of the road going unnoticed and injured for days? Or getting lost? Many scenarios come to mind where a PLB could save lives. Lastly, if you do travel well offshore and you can afford a life raft, get one. I would much rather be sitting in a life raft with a PLB or EPIRB than treading water in a life jacket clutching one. Thank you for the reply, that's what the forum is for. Brian
04-05-2009, 06:46 PM
One thought...the EPIRBs and PLBs with internal GPS have been know to burn up their battery life much quicker when searching for GPS signals.
So a PLB not being handled correctly may have a greatly shortened battery life due to it's much smaller battery size.
recommending a mile range for safety equipment with no other parameters is just not a great idea.
Traffic, expected weather and water conditions, other survival equipment...etc..etc...all have a much greater impact on overall equipment selection rather than an arbitrary miles-offshore factor.
The real professionals seem to universally agree that a PLB is never a suitable replacement for an EPIRB...it's a good backup or for those that rarely venture out of siight of land or other boats and have at least 2 other reliable methods of attracting attention....then the PLB is a welcome addition to any survival arsenal.
04-07-2009, 06:01 AM
I agree that a PLB is best used as a supplementary unit and using a mile marker probably wasn't a good idea. I'd like to say every boat has an EPIRB on board but that is just not the case, so having a PLB only adds to your safety arsenal, it certainly doesn't lower it. Brian
05-05-2009, 10:11 AM
EPIRBs have a strobe and PLBs do not.
The new McMurdo Fast Find PLB has an LED strobe on it. But I'd still carry a decent strobe (or LED flashlight) and a LaserFlare to increase the odds and speed of rescue.
05-07-2009, 06:38 AM
i compared them both in great detail before making a final purchase 2 months ago,the new Mcmurdo "PLB" compares to any top of the line "EPIRB" out there,Its even detailed as an "EPIRB".cost wasnt a factor for me as I paid a little over $500 for it,which was $150 less then I seen it going for on other sites.the ONLY disadvantage i could see was that it had to be held flat, which for me wasnt an issue,because if I need it,I will have a death grip on it anyway. the big plus for me was it can be worn on your person,that to me outweighed beling able to let it float around at sea.
PLBS have come a long way since the first one was developed to be used as a "backup" to an epirb,they have since closed the gap if not caught up and are moving fwd. They both have some advantages and disadvantages compared to each other,you have to decide what works best for you. but the main things...ie: signal strength,water proof,battery life are all equal.