Frequently Asked Questions

Registration Basics

Why Register?

  1. Why should I register my 406 MHz emergency beacon?

    The importance of registration is described in this brochure.
  2. How often do I have to re-register my beacon?

    Registration renewal occurs every 2 years, and NOAA will remind you about this deadline via email or postal letter.
  3. Will I get fined if my beacon is not registered?

    The following is stated in the beacon brochure (see #1): Beacon registration is required by Federal regulations (Title 47 of the CFR, Parts 80, 87, and 95). Failure to register the beacon, or to notify the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of a change in beacon ownership, could result in penalties and/or fines issued to the owner by the Federal Communications Commission.
  4. Can I register my non-US beacon with NOAA?

    You should register your beacon with the national authority associated with the country code in the hexadecimal identification (15-hex ID) of your beacon.
  5. Do I need to register my military beacon in both JSETS and the NOAA Beacon Registration Database?

    No. If your beacon is registered in JSETS, it should not be in the NOAA Beacon Registration Database.
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General Information

  1. How do I register my beacon?

    The easiest way is to register online, and setting up an online user account is the first step in online registration. If you already have a user account, you can register additional beacons under that account.
  2. Where do I register my beacon?

    At NOAA's 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database website.
  3. What information do I need before I can complete the online registration of my beacon?

    Registration requirements are described here.
  4. How long does it take for my registration to become active?

    Online registrations are active immediately; registrations that are mailed or faxed to NOAA are active within 2 business days of receipt.
  5. Can I have more than one beacon registered to a vessel/aircraft?

    Yes, because each beacon has a unique 15-hexadecimal ID. You can link multiple beacon registrations under one user account.
  6. Can I register my organization’s beacons to one account even though different individuals may use them at different times?

    Yes. An organization’s registrations can be linked to one or more user accounts for ease of maintenance.
  7. How do I access multiple beacon registrations from one account?

    You must link the registrations to your user account. RGDB staff can assist with this if you're unable to do it online. Please contact us and we'll help!
  8. How do I register a PLB that I use in different ways (boating, hiking, and/or flying)?

    Be sure to complete the "Additional Data" section of the registration and indicate how and where you use your PLB.
  9. How long is my registration information valid in the NOAA registry?

    We request registration renewal every 2 years, but owners can update their information at any time online. Registration records are never completely removed from the database but are marked appropriately if the beacon is labeled out-of-service or was destroyed.
  10. What does it cost to register a beacon?

    Beacon registration is free!
  11. What happens to my NOAA beacon registration if I move out of the USA and take my beacon with me?

    You should get your beacon reprogrammed for the country code in which you will reside, then notify NOAA when you have registered it with the proper national authority.
  12. How long does registration last (does it expire)?

    Registration expires every 2 years.
  13. Why do I have to register in the country I live in if the beacon can be used all over the world?

    Beacons must be registered in the country for which they are coded; it is recommended that owners possess beacons that are coded for the country in which they live (and usually where they use the beacon most).
  14. Where should I place my decal sticker when I receive it?

    Follow the instructions for NOAA registration decal placement that are provided with the decal.
  15. Is there a fine if I accidentally activate my beacon?

    No, but false activations are an issue. Please read our webpage about Preventing False Alerts.
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Updating Registrations

  1. How do I update my beacon registration information?

    Once you have created an online user account, the easiest way to update your information is online.
  2. Why should I update my registration information?

    Search and rescue forces use your registration information during rescue operations, so ensuring the accuracy of your registration information is in your best interest in the event of a beacon activation.
  3. Can I update my registration information over the phone?

    Yes, you may call in updates to an existing registration during business hours: 7:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on Government holidays.
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Renewing Registrations

  1. Now that my beacon is renewed, does that mean it works?

    No. Registration has no effect on a beacon's working ability; the beacon and its battery must be in good working order for proper usage.
  2. Why do I have to renew my registration every two years?

    To ensure that your most current contact information is available to search and rescue forces in the event of an activation.
  3. If my registration is expired, will my beacon still work?

    Your beacon's operation and registration are completely separate; expired registration information is still available to search and rescue forces in the event of an activation.
  4. How do I request a replacement decal?

    Call or email us to request a replacement decal if yours gets lost or damaged before the renewal date. Note that every time you renew your beacon registration, you will receive a new decal listing the new expiration date.
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Changes of Ownership

  1. How do I change registration information if I purchased a beacon from someone who had registered it previously with NOAA?

    Beacon registrations are tied to both the beacon ID and the owner/operator. If you buy a second-hand beacon, you will need to register it as though it was new. Our website will alert you to the fact that a beacon has been registered before. You should double-check the ID and if correct, simply ignore the warning. You will be able to submit your registration as “Pending” and the registration database staff will then process the registration. This process can take a few days to complete.
  2. How do I sell or transfer my beacon registration to a new owner?

    If you sell or transfer your beacon to a new owner, you will need to log in to your registration and change the status of it to “Sold/Transferred.” You can also call or email us for help.
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Lost/Stolen Beacons

  1. What should I do if I lose my beacon or it is stolen?

    Follow the instructions provided here.
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Registration Information Requirements

General

  1. What is a UIN?

    The beacon's unique identification number (UIN), also known as a hex ID, is a 15-hexadecimal character string (valid range: numbers 0 through 9 and letters A through F). Your beacon’s UIN uniquely identifies your 406 MHz beacon and is encoded in the message your beacon transmits to search and rescue services if your beacon is activated. When your beacon is activated, satellites will detect the transmission and relay the distress alert to search and rescue services. The UIN contains the country code and other identification features relative to the carrier, which are dependent upon the coding protocol used. You can find your beacon’s UIN on a label affixed to the beacon or in the beacon documentation provided by your beacon manufacturer. If you have difficulty locating your beacon UIN, contact your beacon manufacturer.
  2. What do I do if my beacon ID is coded with a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number?

    Beacon ID coding using MMSI numbers is not allowed by the US Coast Guard and FCC and cannot be registered in the NOAA database. If your beacon is MMSI-coded, you will need to contact the manufacturer for help with reprogramming the beacon using an acceptable coding protocol.
  3. How can I tell what country code my beacon is coded for?

    Enter your beacon ID in the Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz Decode Program.
  4. What do I do if my beacon is programmed with a test/orbitography/unsupported beacon ID?

    If your beacon is coded with any of these protocols, you will need to contact the manufacturer for help with reprogramming the beacon using an acceptable coding protocol. A beacon coded with one of these protocols will NOT generate an alert or rescue response.
  5. Where on the beacon can I find my manufacturer label?

    The location of the manufacturer label varies by beacon type and manufacturer.
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For all beacon types

  1. What information do I need to register?

    Please review the information provided here before beginning the registration process.
  2. Where do I find the UIN (beacon ID)? What do I do if I can’t find the beacon ID# on my beacon?

    The beacon ID is located on the manufacturer's sticker, located on your beacon. If you cannot find the beacon ID, contact the beacon manufacturer.
  3. Are beacon ID, hex ID, and UIN all the same thing?

    Yes. They are all terms that identify the 15-character hexadecimal unique identification number for your beacon.
  4. What is the checksum and where do I find it? What if I don’t have the checksum?

    The checksum is a 5-character hexadecimal number (consisting of the letters A-F and numbers 0-9) that helps to ensure that the correct beacon ID is recorded. Typically, the checksum is only provided on the manufacturer-supplied registration form included in a new beacon’s packaging (abbreviated as CHK). If you cannot locate a checksum to enter here, you may leave this field blank and continue with your registration. However, if you leave the field blank, our system cannot further verify that your beacon ID has been entered correctly. If you cannot enter a checksum value, we strongly recommend that you very carefully verify that the beacon ID you entered is correct.
  5. Who should I list as an emergency contact?

    Someone with whom you are in regular contact and who will usually know about your travel plans that include a beacon. This person should not be accompanying you on your travels.
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Beacons

Types/Descriptions

  1. What are emergency beacons?

    Read about beacons on the Cospas-SARSAT and SARSAT websites.
  2. Which beacons are registered in the NOAA Beacon Registration Database?

    Read about the 406 MHz emergency beacons that can be registered with NOAA here.
  3. Where can I find contact information for my beacon’s manufacturer?

    Click on this link and select Beacon Manufacturers from the "Please select a Contact Type" pull-down list.
  4. What do ELT, EPIRB, and PLB stand for and how are they unique?

    406 MHz beacon types are described here.
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Usage

  1. How does a distress beacon work?

    When a distress beacon is activated, it transmits a signal that can be detected by satellites. As the satellites orbit the earth, they "listen" for any activated beacons and carry the beacon signals to ground stations that compute their positions and report to rescue authorities. For more details, see this SARSAT system overview.
  2. Can I use my PLB for emergencies at home, like if I fall?

    If you are experiencing an emergency in your home, call your local emergency responders to assist you. Only activate your PLB for a home-based emergency as a last resort. Note that PLBs are primarily intended for use in outdoor, off-the-grid environments.
  3. If I go out of the country with my beacon will it still work?

    Yes, if it is in working order with a working battery. Cospas-SARSAT is a world-wide system. Please read this overview for more information.
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Maintenance/Disposal

  1. How do I get my ELT re-strapped (reprogrammed)?

    Contact your beacon's manufacturer for assistance. Most manufacturers and their contact information are listed here.
  2. What is the proper way to dispose of a beacon or beacon battery?

    Follow the guidance provided here.
  3. How do I maintain my beacon and its battery?

    Information on beacon maintenance and battery replacement is provided here.
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Batteries

  1. How do I dispose of a battery?

    Follow the guidance provided here.
  2. When should I replace the battery in my beacon?

    Battery replacement must be performed no later than the date indicated on the beacon label, or after activation in an emergency. Read more about battery maintenance here.
  3. Where is the beacon’s battery located?

    Battery location varies based on the beacon type and manufacturer. Consult your beacon's manufacturer-supplied documentation or contact the manufacturer.
  4. Will the beacon activate if I try to disconnect the battery?

    Consult your beacon's manufacturer-supplied documentation regarding battery maintenance or contact the manufacturer.
  5. How long does a beacon battery last?

    Consult your beacon's manufacturer-supplied documentation regarding battery life or contact the manufacturer.
  6. Where can I get my beacon serviced for a new battery?

    Consult your beacon's manufacturer-supplied documentation regarding battery servicing or contact the manufacturer.
  7. If my battery is expired, will my beacon still work?

    If the battery is expired the beacon's signal may be weak or will quickly expire. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding your beacon's battery.
  8. Is it best to purchase a new beacon or just have my battery replaced?

    Review your manufacturer-supplied information regarding battery replacement for your specific beacon and review the Cospas-SARSAT guidance on this topic here.
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Coding/Programming

  1. How do I reprogram my beacon if it's non-US-coded?

    After decoding your beacon here, contact your beacon manufacturer.
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Testing

  1. How do I obtain a beacon test report?

    Please contact the manufacturer of your beacon to find a service facility that can test your beacon and provide a test report. The SARSAT program does not provide test reports (see the US SARSAT Program's beacon testing policy here).
  2. How often should I have my beacon tested?

    Follow the guidance provided here.
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Beacon Activations and Rescues

Activation

  1. What Happens When I Activate My Beacon?

    Beacon activation is described here.
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Accidental Activation/False Alerts

  1. What should I do if I accidentally activate my beacon?

    Read the Cospas-SARSAT guidance on inadvertent alerts here.
  2. Who do I call if I accidentally activated my beacon?

    If you have accidentally activated your beacon but do not need assistance, please contact the appropriate RCC right now (day or night) to cancel the search efforts. For ELTs and PLBs, contact the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at 1.800.851.3051. For EPIRBs, contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 1.855.406.USCG (8724). More information about preventing false alerts is provided here.
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Rescues

  1. How can I improve my chances of being found?

    Register your beacon and update your contact information and travel plans online 24/7.
  2. Will I be charged fees for my rescue?

    Every rescue is unique, based on assets used and the outcome, and costs incurred cannot be predicted.
  3. Who pays for someone to come and rescue me?

    Government assets are employed for most search and rescue efforts; every rescue is unique.
  4. How long will it take for someone to come if I am registered in the U.S. but live in Canada?

    Search and rescue assets are launched from locations near the site of the beacon activation, so the beacon location at activation is the only determining factor.
  5. How long does it take for SAR forces to respond once my beacon is activated?

    Every rescue is unique, based on the situation. Search and rescue forces work diligently to perform rescues in the timeliest fashion possible.
  6. If my beacon is not registered and it goes off, how long will it take for someone to locate me?

    The Cospas-SARSAT system will still work, but not registering your beacon defeats the purpose of owning a beacon and taking advantage of current technology. When a beacon is not in a national registry, SAR forces may have a more difficult time locating the beacon owner; the satellite system will receive the alert notification, but not any registration information, which can reduce time spent getting to the activation site, potentially saving your life.
  7. Who does the Coast Guard or Air Force contact first when a beacon is activated?

    Usually the beacon owner/operator is contacted first, but every rescue effort is unique.
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SARSAT

  1. What is SARSAT?

    Click here for a brief description of the SARSAT program.
  2. How is registration information used in the SAR process?

    This page provides a description of what happens after a beacon is activated.
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Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

  1. What happens to my information after I register my beacon?

    The information about your beacon that you place in the registration database is for use by SAR authorities. Information in the NOAA Beacon Registration database is viewable only by SAR authorities and associated government agencies. NO information that you place in the registration database is made available to commercial entities and it is NOT used for any commercial purpose whatsoever. Read more in the SARSAT Privacy Policy.
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Website Issues/RGDB Access

  1. What should I do if I don't know or forgot my password?

    Click here.
  2. What should I do if I don’t know or forgot my username?

    Click here.
  3. What should I do if the link to the registration page does not open?

    Contact the Beacon Registration Database Staff.
  4. What should I do if I had a user account in your old system but I can’t access it now?

    Contact the Beacon Registration Database Staff.
  5. What should I do if my account is locked?

    Your account may be locked due to a number of incorrect login attempts. If you get locked out, wait 15 minutes and try again. If you need further assistance, please call us.
  6. Why did I get a screen message saying “Page has expired”?

    For security reasons, your online session expires after 30 minutes of inactivity.
    To streamline the registration process, please gather all the information that is needed to complete the required fields before you begin the online registration process. You cannot save partial registrations.
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Contact Us

  1. What are the business hours for the NOAA Registration Database?

    7:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on Government holidays.
  2. If I’m going a trip, how can I notify you about it?

    You can update your registration online 24/7 to provide trip information, or call us during regular business hours.
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