The US Coast Guard will stop monitoring distress alerts broadcast using digital 121.5 or 243 MHz EPIRBS with effect from 1 February

US Coast Guard and other search-and-rescue personnel in the USA will stop monitoring distress alerts broadcast using digital 121.5 or 243 MHz EPIRBS with effect from 1 February. Search and rescue satellites will no longer process older model analog EPIRBs that only transmit on 121.5 or 243 MHz.

The 406 EPIRB’s signal is 50 times more powerful than the 121.5 beacon’s, allowing satellites to better detect its signal and provide a more accurate search area for rescue crews. A GPS-embedded 406 EPIRB can shrink a search area to about 100 yards and can also pinpoint the position of a distressed mariner within minutes.

Additionally, the number of false alerts with digital beacons is significantly lower than analog beacons, for which the only way to determine if an alert is an actual emergency is to send rescue crews to the area.