Seven people were participating in an offshore fishing tournament when their 39-foot boat was struck by lightning. Engine and batteries immediately went dead, leaving boat and crew adrift, 100 miles off the coast of Florida. All this, in the midst of a sudden thunderstorm, with winds of 30/35 knots. A situation no sailor would want to be in.
Lightning strikes boat: saved by EPIRB
Fortunately, the boat (11m) was equipped with an EPIRB, which allowed the U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Service (USCG) to reach the crew in just two hours, airlifting them back to the mainland. An extremely short time when considering the distance to the nearest coast, about 100 miles, equivalent to over 185 km! All exclusively because of the EPIRB and the effectiveness of the Search and Rescue system to which it is connected. But what is it and how does the EPIRB work?
The EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is a emergency location transmitter capable of alerting and signaling to rescuers the location of a boat in distress. In fact, it is a device created specifically for the operations of Search and Rescue, and works through the interfacing of a beacon with the satellite system COSPAS-SARSAT.
In other words, once activated (manually or automatically depending on the models), the EPIRB emits a series of signals on emergency frequencies that are then relayed back from the satellites to the rescue coordination centers, providing the critical information to ensure efficient response.
In short, a tool that really can make a difference, mandatory in Italy for navigation beyond 50 miles, but still recommended for anyone who engages in navigational
in potentially challenging situations, even if within the prescribed distances.
More generally however, it is not only the EPIRB that makes a difference. All safety equipment has its specific reasons for being, and it is good to both know how to ascertain its integrity and to be aware of its ways of use-whether it is an EPIRB, or a simpler flare, or smoke buoy.
A seafaring mantra at times tedious, perhaps, but absolutely truthful and essential. So once again, a call to check your safety equipment, better to face the tedium of renewals than to be without it in your time of need.
For more information regarding the EPIRBS click here. It is also recommended that you regularly consult the Standards related to Life-saving Means and Minimum Safety Equipment., always available in the annexes provided by the Coast Guard and on the websites of the official bodies.
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