Tuesday, 8 September 2015
Periodic battery replacement is essential to maintaining the compliance of EPIRBS and PLBs beacons with applicable ANZ standards.
These standards are produced in order to maximise the likelihood of the beacon functioning correctly in the adverse environments in which distress and emergencies generally arise. Only the manufacturer or its authorised service centre has the necessary equipment, access to the factory approved parts and technical information to carry out battery replacement or repairs and then confirm that the beacon continues to meet the relevant standard.
Serious risks arise if batteries are replaced or repairs to beacons are undertaken by someone other than the manufacturer (or its authorised service centres). In recent weeks it has come to our attention that a number of non-certified beacon service centres are offering a low cost EPIRB and PLB battery replacement service.
Whilst such offers and operations are not technically breaking the law in replacing beacon batteries, they are certainly exposing themselves for liability particularly if the beacon owner is unaware they are non-compliant and the beacon may not function correctly in an emergency.
Australian/New Zealand standard 4280.1 (EPIRB) and 4280.2 (PLB) mandate that beacons must be returned to the manufacturer or a manufacturer’s approved service centre when repairs or battery replacement are required. This standard document is available from www.standards.org.au (Australia) and standards.co.nz (New Zealand).
Furthermore, if a beacon is required to meet carriage requirements under CASA or Maritime regulations the standard requires the beacon must be compliant with AS/NZ 4280.1 for EPIRBs or 4280.2 for PLBs. Consequently if the beacon battery was replaced or serviced by a non-certified service centre then the beacon is non-compliant for mandatory carriage requirements in Australia and New Zealand.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has provided further clarification and guidance on beacon maintenance - http://beacons.amsa.gov.au/maintenance/
The New Zealand Search and Rescue has provided further clarification and guidance on beacon maintenance - http://beacons.org.nz/beaconcare
Should there be any doubt regarding the status of companies offering battery service on GME EPIRBs, please contact us directly:
Australia: 1300 462 462 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Zealand: 09 274 9055 or by email at email@example.com
Footnote: The extra-long life and robust nature of genuine beacon batteries and the precise installation required can make this exercise expensive, in some cases it is more than the cost of a new beacon. In this case you are better off buying a whole new unit, but you still need to dispose of your old beacon and un-register it. Check here for details: http://beacons.amsa.gov.au/news-archive.asp#disposal for proper disposal
If buying a new beacon I urge you to look at a GPS equipped beacon which narrows down your search area and response time immensely. This video explains more of these pointers in easy to comprehend terms: https://www.gme.net.au/check-your-epirb.aspx#section5