Mystery of dumped emergency beacon stumps cops

BEACON OF HOPE: How EPIRBs work at sea. It's not certain whether they should be use for distressed vessels in a tip!

BEACON OF HOPE: How EPIRBs work at sea. It's not certain whether they should be use for distressed vessels in a tip!

A stray radio beacon caused havoc in the Gulf last week and left police scratching their heads about how it was activated.

The drama happened last Wednesday (August 2) at 5.25pm when Normanton Police received an initial call for service from Townsville Water Police in relation to an EPIRB activation.

EPIRB is an acronym for “emergency position indicating radio beacons” and these beacons are a small electronic device that when activated in an emergency, can help search and rescue authorities pinpoint your position.

Thinking a major emergency was underway, police conducted investigations and attended local boat ramps and caravan sites to identify if anyone had activated the beacon.

Thinking a major emergency was underway, police conducted investigations and attended local boat ramps and caravan sites to identify if anyone had activated the beacon.

The Careflight rescue helicopter was notified along with SES to remain on standby.

But with police unable to locate any emergency at sea, there came a clue.

Townsville Water Police received further information that the EPIRB was pinging to the Normanton Dump.

Police conducted investigations and finally confirmed that during waste disposal the EPIRB has activated sending out the distress signal.

Police said the EPIRB was unregistered to any person so they have no idea why it was at the dump.

Once activated, EPIRBs continuously send out a signal for at least 48 hours.

Search and rescue authorities respond to all EPIRB activations—you must only activate the EPIRB in an emergency and you must tell them immediately if you no longer need help.

All boats and PWCs operating beyond smooth and partially smooth waters must carry a 406MHz digital EPIRB when more than two nautical miles from land or when they are more than 2nm from the limits of partially smooth waters.

There is no legislative requirement, however, to carry them while attending a town tip.