A registered beacon allows AMSA Search and Rescue to phone your emergency contacts and look up important information to initiate a response as soon as possible. An unregistered beacon slows down this process, which might result in a delayed response.

Once an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) is registered a confirmation will be issued via SMS, email or letter so that you can prove registration when inspected by authorities.  Beacon registration is valid for two years and renewal can be done online on the beacon registration system or by contacting 1800 406 406.

Whenever your contact details or beacon details change, please update them online. Don't wait for your registration to expire before doing this because incorrect contact details can also delay the response.

A note on how to handle expiring or expired EPIRB's.

GME charge nearly as much refurbishing your old unit than a new unit. Given in 6 to 10 years electronics improve exponentially and the EPIRB's case has been subject to the elements, I would recommend always opting for a new one, especially if they have an inbuilt GPS transmitter. This reduces the search area to less than 100 meters and around 10 meters,

  1. Deregister your expiring or expired EPIRB via the AMSA website link above (in blue). Otherwise if the EPIRB accidentally activates they will come looking for you. This happened recently in Sydney and a rescue helicopter crew circled a rubbish tip until the EPIRB was found.
  2. Remove the battery according to the manufacturer's instructions. If these are unavailable or an enquiry to the manufacturer remains unanswered, then carefully remove the battery yourself. It is a little like diffusing a bomb on the movies. You will need a thin bladed Phillips head screwdriver and small wire cutters. Remove screws, open the case carefully and disconnect the battery from the motherboard via the connecting clip. If you can't do this quickly then cut the wires. If you do this within 15 seconds, there is little chance of an activation.
  3. Take the battery and EPIRB to an approved recycler and pay a small fee. Here in the Whitsundays, AutoPro take care of disposal for you. For further information on recycling contact your local maritime authority, Coast Guard or VMR. 

Interview with AMSA Response Centre Manager Kevin McEvoy

Distress beacons like EPIRBs (emergency position-indicating radio beacons) and PLBs (personal locator beacons) can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

With the flick of a button or in some cases, water immersion, these technological marvels can signal for help and within minutes, some of Australia’s finest search and rescue crews are gearing up to come and save your life.

AMSA Response Centre Manager Kevin McEvoy says unfortunately, every year those same crews also waste precious and potentially lifesaving time on wild goose chases for beacons which have inadvertently activated.

“It might be a PLB that a hiker has thrown into their backpack which has been crushed by other equipment, or maybe an incorrectly mounted float-free EPIRB which has switched on after being exposed to wet weather,” Mr McEvoy said.

  • It could even be an old EPIRB that someone has carelessly thrown into a rubbish bin which has ended-up at a council tip and inadvertently activated.
  • Beacons are sensitive pieces of equipment that need to be handled with care.”
  • Preventing a time wasting and embarrassing inadvertent activation is easy.”
  • For PLBs, keep these devices in a dedicated pocket on your clothing or on the exterior of your backpack, clear of other equipment which might crush or damage it.
  • For EPIRBs, keep these in a safe and dry location which is easily accessible in an emergency.
  • For EPIRBs in float-free set-ups like those mounted externally on commercial vessels, always make sure it’s perfectly aligned inside the housing with the cover closed as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Also, be careful of high-pressure hosing around a float-free EPIRB set-up which could dislodge and accidentally activate an incorrectly mounted device,” Mr McEvoy added.
  • If you have an unwanted beacon, dispose of it responsibly.
  • Find your nearest waste management facility that will accept distress beacons and batteries.
  • Remember, beacons don’t belong in the bin.

What happens if your beacon has inadvertently activated?

“You’ll notice the strobe light is flashing and an audible beep. Switch it off quickly – if it has a water sensor, dry it – and contact AMSA on 1800 641 792 to call-off the search and rescue,” Mr McEvoy said.

“There are no penalties for an inadvertent activation.

“If we detect your beacon, we’ll also try to contact you. Always keep your beacon’s registration details up to date which includes your phone number and next of kin’s contact details.”

Beacon registration is free and, in some states, mandatory by law. Jump onto to update your registration details.

Mr McEvoy said getting the basics right of responsible beacon ownership helps ensure that critical search and rescue resources don’t go to waste.

“After all, if you’re in a genuine emergency and you activate your beacon, you want to know that a crew is looking for you and not broken beacon in a bin in the burbs,” Mr McEvoy added.