If you ever find yourself needing to abandon a vessel, that’s an incredibly good time to have all the right safety equipment. High on the list of marine transponders every ship should carry is a search and rescue transponder (SART). It’s an active radar unit that will pinpoint your location on nearby radars and help them zero in quickly.

SARTs Form a Critical Communication Bridge

Once the safety pin is pulled from a SART, it enters standby mode. It then awaits the detection of an x-band radar beam. Any ship or aircraft with compatible radar will display a line of 12 dots indicating the position and direction of the distressed vessel when in range. The SART will alert the user with either flashing light, an audible tone or both when an x-band radar has “interrogated” it.

This is an ideal time to begin launching flares. The battery in the SART will last around 96 hours on standby and 8 hours active. Once the rescuer gets close enough, the dots turn into arcs and eventually circles when within a mile.

Ideally, the unit should be a meter above the water if possible, such as on top of a lifeboat. However, it will float, although the range will be shortened if it’s on the surface. They shouldn’t be used with other radar beacons, either active or passive, since they can interfere with each other. They also should be tested about once a month.

The Golden Day

The first 24 hours after abandoning a ship is called the golden day. According to the Community Emergency Response Team, victims have an 80 percent chance of survival if rescued within that period.

The SART is a marine transponder designed to substantially reduce the time delay for rescue. Every hour shaved off time in the water is a really big deal, especially in inclement weather or rough seas. They shouldn’t be used in place of an EPIRB, but when used in conjunction with one, your chance of abandoning a boat and surviving dramatically rises.

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