Correct use of EPIRB devices vital to safety

BOATIES are being reminded about the importance of registering and correctly knowing how to use an Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon, with significant fines in place for improper use.

The reminder followed an incident on Tuesday night which saw local emergency services put on alert to respond to an EPIRB distress signal after it was detected by the Australian Search and Rescue Authority in Canberra.

Bundaberg Volunteer Marine Rescue vice president Graham Kingston said while the warning was dismissed as a false alarm before a search and rescue operation was launched, a false alarm could become a costly exercise.

"VMR found the signal location was in a forest area just east of the Isis Highway at South Bingera," he said.

"It could have been that someone may have been testing the device before planning to go out on to the water the next day and switched it on instead of on to test."

Mr Kingston said each year the base responded to a number of calls which turned out to be a false alarm.

"We had one recently in Theodore, out behind Monto," he said.

"When you involve the choppers which are thousands of dollars and the police, it all adds up.

"It's not just a call to VMR, a whole range of services are involved when an EPIRB is activated."

Mr Kingston said registering an EPIRB meant a simple phone call may be used in the first instance to rule out a false alarm.

"If an EPIRB is registered, we can call the house and find out straight away if the boat is still in the back yard," he said.

"But if the boat is out on the water, we can get a rescue under way."

Sargent Paul Bacon from Hervey Bay Water Police also stressed that improper use of an EPIRB was an offence and warned that a penalty could be imposed.

"False alarms with EPIRBs put unnecessary pressure and expense on emergency authorities as each activation had to be assumed critical until proven otherwise," he said.

EPIRB info

A fine for misuse of an EPIRB can be in excess of $550

EPIRBs should only be used when there is a threat of grave and imminent danger

If an EPIRB is accidentally activated, switch off the beacon and call Rescue Coordination Centre Australia on 1800 641 792

EPIRB batteries need to be replaced before the expiry date noted on the label of the beacon

EPIRBs need to be disposed of responsibly in case they accidentally activate and trigger a false alarm

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