Danger of EPIRB false alarms

RACQ CQ RESCUE is at risk of not saving lives if people continue to discard emergency radio beacons incorrectly.

Since April 17 this year, there have been four false EPIRB alarms that have sent the rescue helicopter on wild goose chases, costing the organisation time and money.

About 13 hours have been wasted since April, translating to costs of more than $75,000 for RACQ.

Most regular boat users are familiar with EPIRBs or emergency position indicating radio beacons.

Most boat users also know that the older 121.5 MHz types have now been superseded by the more advanced digital 406 MHz models.

But some people obviously don't know how to dispose of their old EPIRBs properly.

In each of the four false-alarm cases, the EPIRB has been discarded (for example in a wheelie bin) and has ultimately ended up on a Whitsunday landfill site, where it becomes compacted by machinery on the site.

An EPIRB that is intact when it arrives in the landfill can easily be activated by this compaction process.

RACQ business development manager Leonie Hansen emphasised that money and time were not the only issues.

She said the main issue was that RACQ CQ RESCUE risked not attending a real emergency because its resources had been allocated to a false alarm.

So far, a real emergency and a false alarm have not yet coincided, but Mrs Hansen warned that “it's only a matter of time” before such a situation occurred.

RACQ CQ RESCUE general manager Phillip Dowler said that every EPIRB activation must be treated as a genuine emergency.

Because of this, it was very disappointing that scarce emergency response resources were being misdirected through sheer carelessness, he said.

“One hour of flying time in the RACQ CQ RESCUE helicopter amounts to $5830,” Mr Dowler said.

“This amount means nothing when there are lives at risk, however it results in a waste of time, effort and resources when we are on a wild goose chase that can be avoided.

“We cannot stress enough that EPIRBs must be discarded properly.

“We understand from time to time there will be unavoidable false alarms.

“But too often, the false activations could be avoided with a little care and responsibility.”

To avoid this potentially dangerous problem and dispose of your EPIRBs correctly, please contact Batteries Whitsunday on 4940 2600. 

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