Important information for all EPIRB Owners

Important information for all EPIRB Owners

The following important information for EPIRB owners has been released by 406 Distress Beacons, 

Help us debunk a few myths about Distress Beacons

New Zealand Search and Rescue has concerns about some of the myths that the New Zealand public may hear about 121.5MHz, 234MHz and 406MHz distress beacons (EPIRBs, PLBs & ELTs).

The following information addresses some of the popular myths and presents a clear and consistent message to the boating public about distress beacons. MYTH
121.5Mhz and 243MHz Beacons will be monitored after 1st February 2009

On 1st of February 2009 the satellite system monitoring 121.5MHz and 243MHz Distress Beacons (EPIRBs) will be turned off worldwide. This means RCCNZ will not receive an alert and hey will not be given an approximate location of the beacon by satellite if someone triggers this type of beacon.

It is true that aircraft will continue to monitor 121.5MHz BUT being heard is dependant on an aircraft flying nearby the beacon and no location will be given. From SAR point of view this is next to useless as even if the alarm was raised by an aircraft the potential search area may be enormous.

The 406MHz distress beacons will not work on the West Coast of the South Island

Beacons must have line-of-sight contact with satellites to communicate. Deep narrow gorges and large overhangs can affect beacon communications with the geostationary satellites but low orbit satellites will be able to pick up the 406MHz signal – it just might take a little longer to raise an alert.


The 406MHz distress beacons are not monitored until February 2009

406MHz distress beacons are currently being monitored and they have been for a number of years.


  • Replace 121.5MHz/243MHz beacons with 406MHz beacons before 1 February 2009.
  • It is vital that 406MHz beacons are registered with RCCNZ.
  • 406MHz beacons with inbuilt GPS are strongly recommended.
  • In the Marine Environment EPIRB’s are better. Many PLB’s do not float.
  • 121.5MHz/243MHz beacons need to be disabled by physically disconnecting the batteries. They then need to be disposed of responsibly.
  • Do not purchase a 406MHz beacon from overseas – they will not have the correct New Zealand identification code.
  • 406MHz beacons can be used worldwide but they must be registered here in New Zealand to effect a positive response to any activation.

The Whitianga Coastguard Radio Operators will be broadcasting the following information in relation to EPIRBs over these periods:

For the last two weeks of December 2008.
Safety Notice. If you have a 121.5 EPIRB distress beacon, it’s vital that you make the switch to a new beacon on the four-oh-six mega hertz frequency.
After 1st of February 2009, the 121.5 and 243 mega-hertz frequencies will not be monitored by satellite.
You’ll also need to register your four-oh-six mega hertz EPIRB at

For the last two weeks of January 2009.
Safety Notice 121.5 and 243 mega hertz frequencies will stop being monitored by satellite on 1st of February 2009.
It’s vital that you switch to the new 406 EPIRB before February the first this year, and register your beacon at