SEATTLE - The Coast Guard received a distress signal from an Emergency Position Indicating Radiobeacon, or EPIRB, registered to a boat home-ported in Missoula, Mont. Wednesday.
No people were in trouble, but the Coast Guard didn't know that when they first received the signal. However, it wasn't long before they discovered the call was a false alarm.
The owner of the EPIRB had failed to unregister the device when he sold his boat, the 42-foot motor vessel Good Medicine, to a man in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. After a series of phone calls between the Coast Guard District Office in Florida and the broker who sold the boat, it was learned the EPIRB was thrown some time during the week of June 18-24.
EPIRBs are devices intended to save lives by transmitting a signal to rescuers with the position of troubled boaters. When they are improperly disposed of they can cost the Coast Guard valuable time and taxpayers thousands of dollars in resource costs.
The International Maritime Organization and the Coast Guard recommend that unwanted EPIRBS be disposed of by either removing the battery and shipping the unit back to its manufacturer or rendering the unit inoperable by demolishing it. The EPIRB should also be unregistered with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in any case when the unit has been disposed of or transferred to a new owner.
The Coast Guard routinely refers cases involving the non-distress activation of an EPIRB (either as a hoax, through gross negligence, carelessness or improper storage and handling) to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC can prosecute cases based upon evidence provided by the Coast Guard, and will issue warning letters or notices of apparent liability or fines up to $10,000.
By following the rules for proper EPIRB disposal, boaters can save themselves a lot of trouble and the Coast Guard an unnecessary trip to the dump. For more information on EPIRBS, please contact NOAA at 1-888-212-7283.