Ask Sail: The Price of Safety

It looks like I can save some money by buying an EPIRB without a built-in GPS receiver. How important is GPS capability for 406-MHz EPIRB signaling?
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D.H. of Sausalito, California, asks:

I am heading out to Hawaii soon and plan on purchasing a new 406-MHz EPIRB. It looks like I can save some money by buying an EPIRB without a built-in GPS receiver. How important is GPS capability for 406-MHz EPIRB signaling?

Gordon West replies:

You should definitely get your new 406-MHz EPRIB with a built-in GPS receiver. I would absolutely not consider buying an EPIRB without GPS!

When the activated EPIRB sends out its signal, embedded GPS data allows rescue authorities to pinpoint your position to within a few yards. Without the embedded GPS data, the search area goes from square yards to square miles; also, the time it takes authorities to get a fix on you goes from seconds to sometimes half an hour. In spite of the extra cost, you should always buy an EPIRB with built-in GPS.

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Photo courtesy of ACR Electronics

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