The final step in coding 406 MHz beacons is registering the beacon with the appropriate national authorities. In accordance with IMO and ICAO requirements national authorities should provide facilities for making this data available to Search and Rescue (SAR) services on a 24-hr basis. The extremely important step of registering your beacon is required to enable the proper SAR response if the beacon is activated. [ list of points of contact responsible for beacon matters in countries throughout the world ].
The Cospas-Sarsat Secretariat operates the International 406 MHz Beacon Registration Databse (IBRD) located at www.406registration.com. National authorities from some countries allow use of the IBRD for registration of beacons with their country codes. Beacon registration can only be accomplished using the online interface of the IBRD.
Why Register Your 406 MHz Beacon?
When a 406 MHz beacon is detected by the Cospas-Sarsat System, one of the initial actions taken by SAR services is to try and contact the owner of the beacon, or an emergency point of contact designated by the beacon owner, to confirm the nature of the distress event. Typically the following steps are followed:
- The beacon is activated.
- The Cospas-Sarsat System detects the beacon, decodes the digital message it transmitted and forwards this alert to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Centre or SAR Point of Contact.
- The SAR personnel send an electronic message to the organization responsible for the operation of the beacon registration database associated with the country code transmitted by the beacon. For example if the beacon was coded with a USA country code, a message would be sent to the operators of the USA beacon registration database requesting all the information available in the registration database.
- Using this registration information the SAR authorities attempt to contact the beacon owner and/or the emergency point of contact identified in the registration details to assist in the planning of the rescue operation.
- When a non-location protocol beacon is detected by a Cospas-Sarsat Geostationary satellite, the resulting alert message produced by the Cospas-Sarsat System does not include location information. The location of the beacon will not be available until it is detected by the Cospas-Sarsat Low Altitude Earth Orbiting Satellites (LEOSAR). By contacting the emergency point of contact identified in the beacon registration database SAR authorities are often able to determine the general area in which the beacon owner was traveling, thereby enabling the SAR mission to be initiated even before the beacon is detected by the LEOSAR System.
- When the beacon is detected by one of the Cospas-Sarsat LEOSAR Satellites, the alert includes two Doppler calculated locations. One is the correct location, however, the other is an artifact of the Doppler signal processing. By contacting the emergency point of contact and obtaining information on the general area in which the beacon owner is traveling, it is often possible to identify which of the two locations is correct. This enables the SAR mission to be initiated immediately with no uncertainty as to the correct location.
- If the beacon is inadvertently activated, SAR authorities may be able to contact the owner using the contact details provided in the beacon registration database to have the beacon deactivated thus canceling a false alarm. If the beacon is not registered SAR personnel would have to be dispatched to the beacon's location, which may involve high costs to SAR services and expose the rescue personnel to danger.