The Difference Between An EPIRB And A PLB

With the popularity of sailing becoming higher every year, the importance of your safety equipment increases as well. Whether you are going for a small sailing trip along the coast or a much longer period of time, you should be prepared for any emergency which could happen and that is done by keeping a PLB and an EPIRB on board but what is the difference between the two? They are both a great addition to your emergency kit on your boat along with other things like grab bags, distress flares, food and water. Having a beacon so that you can be located in case of an emergency can be a life saver.

Emergency Locator Beacons

Both the PLB and the EPIRB are what is known as an emergency locator beacon which is the name given to devices which will transmit a distress signal over the COSPAS-SARSAT system. Signals will usually include information such as location and information about the person who registered it in the first place. The signals, once transmitted, are sent to an emergency response team so that a person in distress can be helped. Usually a satellite will determine the location of the personal locator beacon or EPIRB to about three miles.


The EPIRB is known as the emergency position indicating radio beacons; they can float and send a signal for a minimum of 48 hours from the time of activation. That is one of the main differences between the EPIRB and the PLB that PLBs will not usually float. Usually the emergency locator beacon will send a signal and emit a sound once it has been activated no matter if it is an EPIRB or personal locator beacon. It is necessary for an EPIRB to be registered as soon as purchased in order for it to send the right information.


As stated earlier, the PLB will not float as the EPIRB would. However, that doesn’t mean that it cannot help you when you are boating. The one thing that you will need to ensure is that your personal locator beacon is placed in a floating bag. Just like the EPIRB, PLBs need to be registered to send correct information to rescue teams and it usually will send signals for a shorter time than the EPIRB. The minimum amount of time for a signal for a personal locator beacon is 24 hours; however, when conditions are warmer, that time can be much longer.

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