Disposing of emergency beacons
Emergency beacons are part of a system that provides a rapid alert that can trigger a response to emergencies that occur in the air, on the seas or on land. Emergency beacons should be registered with the Canadian Beacon Registry. Whether an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) for aircrafts, a Personal Local Beacon (PLB) for land-based activities, or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) for vessels, correct information in the registry assists search and rescue (SAR) personnel and can improve chances of survival.
Disposal of emergency beacons
Sooner or later emergency beacons will need to be replaced. Furthermore, as the satellite system stops processing the 121.5/ 243 MHz signals on February 1st, 2009, older emergency beacons will need to be disposed of.
A critical phase in replacing an emergency beacon is the deposal of the old one. Whether an ELT, PLB, or EPIRB, at the end of an emergency beaconís useful life, it is vital that the battery be disconnected from the unit to prevent false alerts.
False emergency beacon alerts can cause expensive disruptions to search and rescue services and could endanger lives as a consequence.
An emergency beacon should never be disposed of as domestic household waste as it could end up being activated or cause adverse effects on the environment. In many cases, the improper disposals of emergency beacons have led to activated beacons in land fills, garbage cans and in peopleís homes. The Canadian Mission Control Centre, which receives the distress signals, may react to this as an emergency. The battery in an emergency beacon can also contain traces of hazardous materials and should be handled with great care. Emergency beacons need to be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of according to the requirements in each community.
For questions on how to dispose of an emergency beacon, contact the manufacturer or take it to an electronics recycling centre in your community.
After safely disposing of an emergency beacon, the Canadian Beacon Registry should be updated to reflect the fact that this beacon has been decommissioned. This is the responsibility of the emergency beacon owner and not the manufacturer.
Myths about emergency beacons
MYTH: If my emergency beacon is accidentally activated and I turn it off right away, no signal will be detected.
FACT: There is a possibility that a signal will be transmitted immediately after the emergency beacon is activated. If a beacon is accidentally activated, no matter for how long, it should be reported to Canadian Mission Control Centre (CMCC) by calling 1-800-211-8107.
MYTH: I will get fined if I accidentally activate an emergency beacon even just for 10 seconds.
FACT: There is no fine or penalty if an emergency beacon is accidentally activated. One signal is all it takes to reach CMCC. In case of accidental activation, CMCC must be advised by calling 1-800-211-8107.
MYTH: If my emergency beacon is not registered, the signal wonít be picked up when the beacon is activated.
FACT: An emergency beacon signal will be received by CMCC even if a beacon is not registered. This will be considered an emergency. Call the Beacon Registry to register your emergency beacon at 1-800-727-9414 or 613-996-1616.
MYTH: The emergency beacon wont go off if the battery is expired.
FACT: An expired battery is not the same a dead battery. An expired battery can potentially work as well as a new one and when activated, will transmit signals. In case of accidental activation, the CMCC must be advised by calling 1-800-211-8107.
MYTH: The dealer will register my emergency beacon when I purchase one.
FACT: It is the responsibility of the beacon owner to contact the Beacon Registry and register their emergency beacon. The dealer is not responsible for giving the Beacon Registry information such as vessel information, owner information, emergency contacts, etc.
MYTH: When the Cospas-Sarsat system ceases to process the 121.5/243 MHz signals, CMCC will still receive the alert.
FACT: There will be no automatic alerting of 121.5/243 MHz signals at CMCC as of February 1st, 2009. A 121.5/243 MHz emergency beacon will not be seen on the radars therefore no one will know there is a distress.
MYTH: If I buy a new boat and use the emergency beacon from my old boat, there is no need to register it.
FACT: The Beacon Registry should be advised of any information regarding a change in vessel. If the old vessel was blue and the new one is yellow, searchers will be looking for a blue vessel. This may impede the search. Emergency beacon owners should call and advise the Beacon Registry of a change in vessel information as well as any changes in address or telephone numbers.
MYTH: If I sell by boat with an EPIRB, itís the new ownerís responsibility to update the emergency beacon registration.
FACT: In this case, there are two things that must be done. The seller of the vessel must call and notify the registry of the sale. Then, the new owner must contact the registry to update the information relating to the emergency beacon. If these steps are not taken, the former owner may be the one who is reached and/or searched for in the event of a distress signal.
MYTH: If I buy a new emergency beacon for my vessel, I donít have to register it because my former beacon is already registered and my information is in the system.
FACT: The former emergency beacon must be decommissioned and the newly purchased one registered. If there is a distress signal received with the new emergency beacon and it is not registered, searchers will not know what to look for. If the unused emergency beacon isnít decommissioned and it is activated, searchers may start a search for your vessel when it is not needed.
MYTH: If my emergency beacon is not in use, it doesnít matter. I can leave it in a safe place such as storage.
FACT: The Beacon Registry must be notified if there is a change of status for a registered beacon. An emergency beacon that is stored away may still be activated and CMCC may take action in response. It is the sole responsibility of beacon owners to notify the registry if there is a change in status. This can be an emergency beacon that is no longer in use, in storage, stolen, lost, broken, decommissioned, etc.
MYTH: Providing emergency contacts when I register an emergency beacon is optional.
FACT: Emergency contacts are crucial in any emergency situation as it can help piece information together on the whereabouts and activities of those in distress. This information must be given when an emergency beacon is registered.
Emergency beacon information can be update online at beacons.nss.gc.ca.