EPIRB Failures

By Frank Lanier
Chesapeake Bay Magazine March 2003

The U.S. Coast Guard is warning boaters to inspect their EPIRBs (electronic position indicating radio beacon), particularly those manufactured by ACR Electronics of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to make sure the antennae are working properly. The safety alert went out after Coast Guard inspectors checking commercial fishing vessels in Hawaii, found the external rubber coating on several ACR 2754 Satellite 406 EPIRB antennae was split or torn, and the unitsí interiors were corroded. The rubber coating on others was intact, but when inspectors sliced open bulges at the bases of the antennae they found the metal had wasted away. Inspectors also found moisture within the threaded area after antennae were unscrewed, or rusty liquid dripping from the antenna itself.

ACR Electronics has acknowledged the problem with the EPIRBs (which send out radio signals to help guide rescuers to vessels in distress at sea) and is conducting tests to determine its cause and scope. Meanwhile, boaters who discover similar problems with their ACR EPIRBs can get free replacement antennae by contacting ACR Electronics Customer Service at 800-432-0227 ext. 110. The company asks that you save the damaged antennae so that it can be examined.

An ACR spokesman said the model in question was manufactured between 1992 and 1997 and only a small number of units have been found defective to date, all of which were located in either Hawaii or Peru.