I’ve recently seen some commentary that Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) aren’t needed with Ocean Rowing adventures/ expeditions/ trips.
I think that’s a foolish mindset and doesn’t acknowledge the many benefits that this personal device gives you.
Every ocean going vessel should have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), a supersized PLB that relays your GPS coordinates and the device ID (which has been registered to a vessel or person with PLBs).
What is a EPIRB? Link
The idea is that if you’re in grave danger, turning on this device can alert the US Coast Guard or national rescue organization that a situation is unfolding. This device is mobile, so if you have to ditch the vessel you’re on and step up into a life raft, you still have a way (although it is one way) to communicate your location with would be rescuers. EPIRBs have a bigger battery and bigger antenna than PLBs.
A PLB is exactly the same thing but miniature and ideally worn by a crew member 24/7.
So why do I think it’s foolish to rely solely on a vessels EPIRB? Let me list a few basic reasons:
- When your life is on the line do you want (1) one chance to survive?
- When was the last time a piece of technology failed on you?
- EPIRBs are mobile and held on the boat with a strap or simple mechanism, they’ve been known to detach unintentionally. There went your one life line.
- MH370 - the Malaysian aircraft that went down and the transponder couldn’t be reached before the battery gave out. Hmm 10 oz of weight gets you another 24 hours of beaconing. Imagine if everyone was wearing one. Survival odds go up for those prepared.
- It’s $240 bucks and could save your life.
What a PLB isn’t; it isn’t a guarantee you’ll survive. It also isn’t a protection against falling in the ocean. Your odds of survival even if you had a PLB in 60 degree F water are bad. But I’d rather have a chance, how about you?
Ultimately a PLB is one element of a risk management strategy that has to be used at the right time and situation. There isn’t one golden ticket that’ll save you. Being well prepared mentally and selecting your kit as compensating controls to identified and likely risks is my method. Its the one I’ll practice throughout my team’s adventure across the Pacific Ocean by ocean rowing boat.