Cost of a Man-Overboard Alarm System

Cost of a Man-Overboard Alarm System

Cost of implementing a man-overboard alerting system may be a barrier to saving lives. Knowing if a man-overboard situation (MOB) has occurred on your premises is what keeps executives and safety personnel up at night. Fortunately, a solution for detecting a MOB has been around for 20 years. Sometimes referred to as MOB Beacons, Marine Survivor Locator Device, or Locator Beacons, it’s all about technology that will alert of a fall overboard. Making a decision to invest in a man-overboard beacon system should be imperative for a company with employees working on or near water. However, the cost and time to implement a MOB alerting system can seem daunting.

Emerald Marine Products has been protecting employees working on or near water for over twenty years so we have a clear understanding of the costs and time to implement a solution. We have a solution that is easy to implement and very cost-effective.

Understanding True Cost of Ownership of a Man-Overboard Alerting System

In regards to the cost of implementing a system, you want to not just look at the initial purchase price, but the total cost over the lifetime of a product for the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). We recently had the opportunity to put our mathematical skills to work to calculate the TCO of our ALERT Man-Overboard devices. Why is this important? There are competing products in the MOB Beacon/Locator Beacon marketplace, so it’s important to consider what MOB alarm systems will last longer and understand associated maintenance costs. 

Important Purchase Factor: How Long Will the MOB Beacon System Last? 

If you are involved in purchasing safety technology, one of your concerns is how long with MOB alerting technology last? Emerald Marine Products is proud of the fact that our man-overboard alerting devices have been serving the maritime industry for over twenty years. It is doubtful many of today’s Man Overboard Beacon vendors will be around that long. In our twenty-year span of business, we have seen other MOB Alerting products and technology go out of business

Bluetooth and AIS man-overboard products are very sexy and the rage for “the latest technology” but the truth is, Bluetooth and AIS man-overboard products can be very costly in the long run. Any technology that relies on Apps for use will require updates and continued technical support of its software. Bluetooth and AIS are reliant on other vendors’ products and this doubles or triples the concern for long-term longevity and support. Most systems are not “commercial-grade” and are not expandable.

ALERT MOB alarm products do not require any software to operate. The ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System relies on the decades-old wireless transmission on the 418MHz frequency. No need for costly software or updates to keep the technology current. Bluetooth and AIS alerting systems may have an initial price less than our ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System but the TCO may take on a different cost once the longevity of the system is considered.

Dependence on Other Technology to Support a MOB Alerting System 

Many MOB Beacon App-based systems have a life expectancy of 2-3 years based on supporting software technology by the manufacturer or the operating system the apps need to function. Constant updating for bug fixes and security concerns are guaranteed. The ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System requires no software updates to remain functional. So when looking at the CTO of the ALERT MOB system, you simply need to look at the initial purchase price and any costs associated with new batteries or replacing a worn pouch or outer shell. 

TCO of the ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System 

Last month, we received 40 ALERT2 Man-Overboard Alarm System Transmitters for a service check-up. This group of 40 allowed us to see how our man-overboard transmitters have fared over a span of time. We are happy to report that other than updating some worn pouches, outer shells, and batteries, the ALERT2 Transmitters were fully functioning. This proved that units in five-plus years of heavy maritime use may require a new pouch or batteries, but nothing more.

In reviewing this sample group of 40 units, and many other servicing checks over the years, we have confirmed our products last 7plus years. Based on a lifetime of 7 years (at a minimum) at an initial cost of $274 plus one set of new batteries, the total cost for one transmitter per day for 7 years is $0.05/day. Assuming one ALERT2 Receiver will be needed to support five ALERT2 Transmitters (numbers will vary so we took an average). We calculated that the average life of a receiver is $0.44/day. As you increase the number of employees, you decrease the TCO of man-overboard alarm protection. 

Your Company Can Be Protected from a Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit of a Man-Overboard Fatality

We have all heard of the analogy, “for the cost of a coffee at Starbucks you can…” We hate to use that analogy, but when it fits it fits. Using these sample figures previously outlined, a crew of five can be protected for $0.69 per day over a five-year period, A fleet of 10 boats and 40 crew can be protected for $6.40/day over a five-year period. If the TCO doesn’t convince your financial department, think of the money spent on a lawsuit for an injury or fatality when a life-saving product exists and wasn’t used.

Now Easier Than Ever to Implement a Fall-Overboard Alerting Solution

Finally, with the simplicity of costs now comes, the simplicity of operation. With our newly released ALERT Portable, DIY Man-Overboard Alarm System you can have an ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System functional at a job site (vessel or dockside) within minutes. We are so confident in the life-saving capabilities of our ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System, we will make it available for a no-risk 30-day evaluation to qualified companies. Further information about the financial, technical, or operational aspects of keeping your employees working on or near water safe, contact Emerald Marine Products at 800-426-4201 or email info@emeraldmarineproducts.com.


Smart Phone App usage at sea

Are App-Based Alarms Reliable for Man-Overboard Rescue?

Fall overboard (FOB) occurrences are much more common than we would like to believe. A simple trip on the deck or dock, excessive speed, or even a storm can cause people to fall off the boat. The problem is that within seconds, the fall overboard victim can drift at least 100 feet from the boat, making it difficult to find the person who fell overboard. It is critical to wear a PFD, but just as important is to invest in an alarm to notify the boat and crew of the man-overboard for immediate rescue. This testimonial highlights how fast a fall overboard can happen.

As the reliance on our smartphones continues to increase, so does the usage of apps as utilities and even man-overboard alarms. Over the last 3 years, several apps have been created to serve as man-overboard alarms. These apps rely on Bluetooth technology to notify the app of a loss signal i.e. man-overboard and trigger an alarm on the phone. I decided to do a little research to better understand the reliability of these apps as a man-overboard alarm. I summarized my learnings below. Although an app can appear cheap and easy to use, there are a lot of variables to manage – fully charged phone battery, open application, phone/tablet readily available, reliable Bluetooth connection, and more. In conclusion, when it comes to boat safety and preventing needless man-overboard injuries and fatalities, it is worth it to invest in an alarm system that you can set and forget.

Connection Reliability and False Alarms

These app-based systems trigger an alarm when the beacons or devices worn by the person lose connection with the phone app. This connection is relying on Bluetooth. Unfortunately, Bluetooth on a good day has a range of about 150 feet and can be much less on a phone. This reliability on Bluetooth on a boat has resulted in triggering many false alarms. The person wearing the beacon may just be going down to the galley of the boat, lose Bluetooth connection, and then the app triggers the man-overboard alarm. These false alarm triggers can become exhausting to manage and even result in losing trust in the application, never knowing if the alarm is indicating a real man-overboard situation or just another false alarm. When it comes to investing in a man-overboard alarm, it is critical to have a system in place that you can trust the connection, signal, and viability of the alert to be able to respond immediately.

Charged Phone or Tablet Battery and Battery Consumption

Reliance on an app also means that you are reliant on your phone or tablet. Unfortunately, this means that your phone needs to be fully charged, readily available, and most likely connected to power as the Bluetooth will quickly drain battery life on the device. The reality is that most people don’t have a fully charged device on hand. If the device is charged, it will not stay charged for long, in which case it needs to be connected to a power source and therefore not as readily available in case of a fall overboard emergency.

Software and Hardware Compatibility

Most of these app-based systems require your smartphone or tablet to have Bluetooth 4.0 or higher. They also have hardware requirements i.e. iPhone/iPad 5 or later. Hardware and software systems are constantly evolving, which may require investments in hardware and software on a more regular basis to ensure that the app can be used.

Phone or Tablet Location and Availability

The reliance on the app’s device may require a dedicated tablet or phone just for this app-based man-overboard alarm system. We are used to living with our phones tethered to our bodies – in our pockets, hands, and sometimes we even forget where we leave them. This app will not be effective if it is in the man overboard’s pocket or somewhere else on the boat that is not easily accessible.

Alarm System Setup and Pairing Devices to the App

As easy as it can be to download an app to a tablet or smartphone, it can still be challenging to pair the man-overboard beacons to the app. Some of the forums that I came across indicated that it was sometimes very challenging to pair the beacons to the app.

When it comes to man-overboard safety, it is critical to know that the connection between the transmitter or beacon and the receiver or app is reliable and constant. When it comes to setting up any system, ease-of-setup is essential and the ALERT Transmitter and Receiver are created to automatically connect and maintain that connection at all times.

Fall-Overboard Rescue

When it comes to an actual fall overboard situation, it is critical that the alarm immediately alerts the crew and that there is a way to locate the man-overboard person. Some of these apps can take 5-10 seconds to sound the alarm after losing connection. In a man-overboard situation, every second counts. By 10 seconds a person may already have drifted 100 yards. Click here for an article about the activity of a fall overboard situation within the first minute.

There is a high likelihood that someone could fall overboard when it is dark or there is low lighting. Ideally, there is lighting on the man-overboard device to help find the person who fell overboard. It is best to have a device that has a strong light on it to help identify the person in the water. Some app-based systems don’t have LED lights on the units attached to the person involuntarily in the water. This could mean the difference between life and death.

There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace for effective fall overboard alerting. Emerald Marine Products has compiled both a presentation and an article to hopefully clarify the strengths and weaknesses of the products and technology acting as fall overboard alarms. Emerald Marine Products specializes in products specific to fall overboard situations. Alerting, training, retrieval, and recovery – the complete package to put you and your crew at ease when concerned about someone involuntarily entering the water.

Learn more about Emerald Marine Products’ set it and forget it man-overboard alarm system. For additional information about preventing fall overboard occurrences, check out Key Learnings from the American Waterways Operator’s committee panel discussion.


Confusing terms of man-overboard alerting products.

Confusion About Man Overboard Alerting Devices?

MSLD, EPIRBs, Personal Locator Beacons, are all search terms that define a device to alert of a person unintentionally in the water. Regardless of the term, our product if the most proven and defined Fall Overboard Alerting Product on the market.

There are about a dozen products on the market that are identified as fall-overboard locator beacon products. Two commonly used terms now used to market these devices are “Maritime Survivor Locating Devices (MSLD)” and a more recently introduced term, “Personal Man Overboard Beacons”. They are generally placed in five different categories:

    1. Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)
    2. VHF DSC frequency 156.525 (Channel 70)
    3. 121.5 MHz distress channel
    4. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon ( EPIRBs) transmitting to the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite
    5. Proximity transmission

In our article that goes into detail about these different type of alerting devices, we hope to clear up some of the confusion. To read the article, click here.