Thanet RNLI Community Safety

What Is The Difference Between a Personal Locator Beacon and an Automatic Identification System

Our team undertake lifejacket clinic’s at lifeboat station’s, yacht clubs and harbours from time to time and enjoy chatting to yachtsmen and women about all aspects of maritime safety.  One question which crops up regularly relates to….. “what is the difference between a personal locator beacon and an automatic identification system”…… So, we have put together this blog to simply explain the differences.

 

Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

A PLB is a manually activated device that’s transmit’s a radio signal on the 406 MHz frequency to specific Cospas-Sarsat (international, humanitarian search and rescue system) low-earth orbiting and GPS satellites which detect and locate aviators, mariner’s and land-based users such as climbers, hikers or mountain bikers in remote locations in distress. The satellites then relay information, via ground tracking stations and Mission Control Centre’s (MCC), and then onto a rescue co-ordination centre.

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National Maritime Operation’s Centre – Fareham

Where is the UK’s Mission Control Centre?

The designated UK Mission Control Centre (MCC) is the National Maritime Operation’s Centre (NMOC) based at Fareham in Hampshire.  Wherever in the world a UK registered PLB is activated, the Mission Control Centre in the respective country which it is operated will then pass the details to the NMOC for further action and investigation.  This may involve the NMOC tasking search and rescue assets eg lifeboat, helicopter, Coastguard Rescue Team etc to the last location transmitted if in the UK.

How do PLB’s work?

Most PLB’s are also equipped with GPS receivers, thus being able to calculate and send an accurate location embedded within the beacon’s 406 MHz message. Other PLB’s without GPS rely solely upon the less accurate Doppler principle to establish the beacon’s position. The beacon also transmits a homing signal on VHF, to which Search and Rescue helicopters; and lifeboats can home in on.

The signal transmitted by the distress radio beacon includes a digital message which allows the transmission of encoded data such as the unique identifier for the beacon that transmitted the alert and if the beacon has an integral GPS, the beacon’s position.  Otherwise the beacon’s signal may need to be detected by two or three satellites before its position can be sufficiently estimated, therefore it may take longer for Search and Rescue assets to locate the PLB and it’s owner.

Return Link Service PLB’s

Return Link Service PLB’s are being activated during 2020, which is a re-assurance signal back to a new generation of SAR beacons to inform the user that their distress signal and location have been detected. This new capability is unique to the Galileo satellites. A detailed blog explaining this new concept will be posted soon.

 

What happens when you have purchased a PLB?

Once a PLB unit is purchased, there are no subscription fees and the battery should last, if not used, for 5-6 years.  You must register the PLB with the Marine Coastguard Agency and maintain accurate registration details, including the 24-hour Emergency Point of Contact details. UK Beacon Registry contact details: ukbeacons@mcga.gov.uk Tel: 01326 211569

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PLB’s are Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) approved. The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System is the technical, operational and administrative structure for maritime distress and safety communications worldwide.

 

How does the Automatic Identification System (AIS) work?

Automatic Identification System (AIS) Man-overboard (MOB) is a personal locator device that works electronically exchanging data with multiple ships and base station’s via VHF.  It is not GMDSS approved or monitored in the UK by the HM Coastguard. It is also limited in range (around 5 miles in open water). An AIS MOB device can be rigged into a lifejacket to activate automically with the inflation of a lifejacket.

AIS is also a requirement for larger pleasure vessels on some European inland waterways.  This varies by country and regionally by waterway.

 

Further useful references

Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Communications

What are the advantages of an EPIRB (Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon)

RNLI – PLB’s and EPIRB’s

 

Acknowledgements

HM Coastguard

RNLI

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RLSS Don’t Drink and Drown – Drowning Prevention Campaign 2nd-8th December

Once again this year our team are supporting the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s national Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, this year running from 2-8 December.

On Thursday 5th and Friday 6th December, we along with teams from RLSS UK, Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Kent Police, HM Coastguard Margate and the Community Pastors will be out and about talking to bar staff, venue security, taxi drivers and members of the public about keeping people safe whilst under the influence.  Kent was ranked in the top three counties for drink and drug related drownings.

We will also be sharing water safety advice via our social media channels daily as well as the RLSS UK’s brand-new film via social media which shows how easily a fun night out can turn into tragedy, and how staying with your friends can make all the difference.

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Don’t Drink & Drown 2018 – HM Coastguard Margate visiting  Coco Latino’s Ramsgate Harbour

Statisics

Latest statistics revealed 53 people have accidentally drowned in Kent over the last five years and 32% of these (17) were found to have had alcohol and/or drugs in their system, making it the 2nd highest county for drownings linked to intoxication.

Nationally there were 1,4581 accidental drowning deaths in the UK between 2014-2018 and more than 30% of the victims had alcohol and/or drugs in their bloodstream*. Many of them drowned because they walked home alone and fell in the water.

RLSS – Don’t Drink and Drown campaign

Hannah Wiggins-Bettles, RLSS UK Community Drowning Prevention Coordinator for the Kent area, said: “It’s a sad truth that the number of drownings increase in the winter period, more often than not because of intoxication.

“Families, friends and whole communities are left devastated every year because someone walks home alone whilst under the influence and falls into the water.

We’re urging people to stay together on a night out. Make sure their friends get home safe and don’t let them walk anywhere, especially near water, alone.”

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Kent Fire and Rescue Service Area Manager for Customer Safety, Colin King, said: “It only takes a small amount of alcohol to impact your ability to save yourself in water. Even strong swimmers with no alcohol in their system could struggle if they fell into a river, due to underwater currents and the effects of cold water shock, which includes involuntary inhalation and can result in drowning. So if you fall in after just a drink or two, you’re likely to drown because your reaction times are reduced, instincts are skewed and coordination is impacted. Have fun this Christmas, but please take care and think before you drink near water.”

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Thanet RNLI Community Safety Officer Andy Mills said: “We are happy to support this critically important campaign and hope that everyone stays safe.”

The Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, this year running from 2 to 8 December, was launched in 2014 following a string of tragic drownings of young people. RLSS UK was keen to prevent more tragedies, by targeting at risk groups in hot spot areas, at particular points in the year where alcohol related drowning incidences increase – September (at the start of the new university term) and December (during the festive period).

As part of the campaign, organisations up and down the country promote water safety messaging and run awareness activities urging revellers to take care near water whilst under the influence of alcohol and/or.

Stay Safe this Christmas:

  • Don’t walk home near water, you might fall in
  • Look out for your friends, make sure they get home safely
  • Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking
  • Alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble

For more information on RLSS UK’s Don’t Drink and Drown campaign visit www.rlss.org.uk, follow the campaign on #DontDrinkandDrown, or call 0300 3230 096

Stats taken from National Water Safety Forum Water Incident Database (WAID) of which RLSS UK is a member. Data is used from 2014-2018, including accidental and natural cause records only. Adults aged 18 years+. Alcohol records are suspected or confirmed deceased, based upon Coroners and emergency service records, court records.

Acknowledgements

RLSS

HM Coastguard

Kent Fire and Rescue Service

RNLI