The International Cospas-Sarsat System has ceased satellite monitoring of 121.5/243 MHz beacons as of 1 February 2009. All beacon owners and users should replace their 121.5/243 MHz beacons with 406 MHz beacons.
Only 406 MHz beacons are now detected by the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system. This affects all maritime beacons (EPIRBs), all aviation beacons (ELTs) and all personal beacons (PLBs). However, other devices (such as man overboard systems and homing transmitters) that operate at 121.5 MHz and do not rely on satellite detection will not be affected by the phase-out of satellite processing at 121.5 MHz.
The decision to terminate 121.5/243 MHz processing was made in October 2000 at the 25th Session of the Cospas-Sarsat Council.
The old 121.5 MHz and 243 MHz distress beacons no longer generate an alert or give your location. The satellite system that supports these old beacons has ceased to operate (with effect 1 February 2009).
This means if you need help in an emergency and you try to use an old distress beacon to alert us, the satellites will have no way of hearing you. Time has run out - if you want a beacon that works, you must purchase a 406 MHz Distress Beacon and register it as soon as possible so we can help you in an emergency.
For information on EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), – go to Sea
For information on PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons) – go to Land
For information on ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitters) - go to Air
How will a 406 MHz distress beacon help save your life?
- It works–only 406 MHz distress beacons are monitored by satellite.
- It’s faster–once activated, the signal from a 406 MHz distress beacon is picked up almost instantly by satellite. The satellites supporting the old 121.5 MHz and 243 MHz distress beacons have been deactivated and can can no longer determine your location - this could cost you your life.
- It’s more Accurate–406 MHz distress beacons give rescuers a search area of approximately 20 square kilometres. However, we strongly recommend GPS equipped EPIRB’s as they reduce the search area down to only a few square metres. This takes the ‘search’ out of search and rescue, and increases your chances of survival. Any 406 MHz beacon is a huge improvement on the old 121.5/243 MHz beacons.
- It brings the right response–with 406 MHz distress beacons, alerts are cross-referenced against a database of registered owners. Having this information improves rescuers’ ability to help you in an emergency, and to respond appropriately. Being able to contact you (or a person you nominate) also saves time and resources from being wasted on false alerts – out of the 1,300 121.5 MHz activations in the last 2 years, only 9% were for a real emergency.