Installing a new EPIRB on your boat
Installing a new EPIRB on your boat

Ensure the safety of you and your family while sailing by learning how to properly install and maintain an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on your boat.

Installing a New EPIRB on Your Boat

As you embark on your sailing adventure with your family, safety should always be a top priority. One essential piece of safety equipment that every boat should have is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). In this article, we will discuss the importance of having an EPIRB on board, the different types of EPIRBs available, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to install a new EPIRB on your boat.

Table of Contents

What is an EPIRB?

An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is a device that transmits a distress signal in the event of an emergency at sea. When activated, the EPIRB sends out a signal that is picked up by satellites and relayed to search and rescue (SAR) authorities. The signal contains information about the location of the vessel, allowing SAR teams to quickly and accurately respond to the emergency.

Why is an EPIRB Important?

An EPIRB is a crucial piece of safety equipment for several reasons:

  1. Speed of rescue: In an emergency situation, time is of the essence. An EPIRB allows SAR teams to pinpoint your location quickly, increasing the chances of a successful rescue.
  2. Global coverage: EPIRBs are monitored by an international satellite system, ensuring that your distress signal can be picked up anywhere in the world.
  3. Reliability: EPIRBs are designed to be durable and reliable, with a long battery life and the ability to function in extreme conditions.
  4. Peace of mind: Knowing that you have an EPIRB on board can provide you and your family with a sense of security as you embark on your sailing adventure.

Types of EPIRBs

There are two main types of EPIRBs: Category I and Category II.

Category I EPIRBs

Category I EPIRBs are designed to be automatically activated in the event of a vessel sinking. They are housed in a float-free bracket that releases the EPIRB when submerged in water. Once released, the EPIRB will automatically activate and begin transmitting its distress signal.

Category II EPIRBs

Category II EPIRBs are manually activated by the user. They are typically stored in an easily accessible location on the boat and must be physically removed and activated in the event of an emergency.

Choosing the Right EPIRB for Your Boat

When selecting an EPIRB for your boat, consider the following factors:

  1. Type of EPIRB: Decide whether you want a Category I (automatic) or Category II (manual) EPIRB. Automatic EPIRBs provide an added layer of safety, as they will activate even if you are unable to do so manually. However, they are generally more expensive than manual EPIRBs.
  2. Battery life: EPIRBs have a battery life of either 48 or 72 hours. Choose an EPIRB with a longer battery life to ensure that your distress signal can be transmitted for an extended period of time.
  3. GPS capability: Some EPIRBs are equipped with a built-in GPS receiver, which can provide more accurate location information to SAR teams. This can be especially helpful in situations where the boat is drifting or in poor visibility conditions.
  4. Size and weight: Consider the size and weight of the EPIRB, as this will affect where it can be stored on your boat and how easy it is to handle in an emergency situation.

Installing Your EPIRB

Once you have selected the right EPIRB for your boat, follow these steps to install it:

  1. Choose a location: Select a location on your boat where the EPIRB will be easily accessible in an emergency. For Category I EPIRBs, ensure that the float-free bracket is mounted in a location where it will not be obstructed when submerged in water. For Category II EPIRBs, choose a location that is easy to reach and visible to all crew members.
  2. Mount the bracket: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to securely mount the EPIRB bracket to your boat. Ensure that the bracket is properly aligned and securely fastened to prevent the EPIRB from accidentally dislodging.
  3. Install the EPIRB: Place the EPIRB in its bracket, ensuring that it is securely locked in place. For Category I EPIRBs, attach the hydrostatic release unit (HRU) to the bracket and EPIRB as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Test the EPIRB: Perform a self-test of the EPIRB to ensure that it is functioning correctly. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for information on how to perform a self-test.

Registering Your EPIRB

It is essential to register your EPIRB with the appropriate national authority. Registering your EPIRB ensures that SAR teams have access to important information about your boat and its occupants, which can be crucial in an emergency situation. Registration is typically free and can be completed online.

To register your EPIRB, you will need to provide the following information:

  • EPIRB identification number (also known as the HEX ID)
  • Boat name and registration number
  • Boat type and size
  • Owner’s name and contact information
  • Emergency contact information

Maintaining Your EPIRB

Regular maintenance is essential to ensure that your EPIRB remains in good working order. Follow these maintenance tips to keep your EPIRB functioning correctly:

  1. Perform regular self-tests: Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for information on how to perform a self-test of your EPIRB. It is recommended to perform a self-test at least once a month.
  2. Check the battery expiration date: EPIRB batteries have a limited lifespan and must be replaced before their expiration date. Make a note of the battery expiration date and ensure that you replace the battery in a timely manner.
  3. Inspect the EPIRB and bracket: Regularly inspect the EPIRB and its bracket for signs of wear or damage. Ensure that the EPIRB is securely locked in its bracket and that the HRU (for Category I EPIRBs) is properly attached.
  4. Keep the EPIRB clean: Clean the EPIRB and its bracket with a mild detergent and water to remove any dirt or debris that may interfere with its operation.


Installing an EPIRB on your boat is a crucial step in ensuring the safety of you and your family as you embark on your sailing adventure. By selecting the right EPIRB, installing it correctly, and maintaining it regularly, you can have peace of mind knowing that help is just a distress signal away in the event of an emergency.