Join Date: Jan 2007
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We had that discussion. SPOT signal in case of 911 call will go to SPOT's private response center, that will in turn contact appropriate authorities. It does not go to "your contact" as previously mentioned. While it does not go to government run center, it does go to people dedicated to the purpose that will make sure someone will be sent to rescue you. The center is ran by search and rescue company and additional SAR insurance is sold pretty cheaply with SPOT, giving you additional rescue options beyond government help.
SPOT also gives you real verifiable service, which you can test and see really working anytime. With EPIRB you have to wait till real emergency to find out if it works, which probably isn't a good time to realize you have a faulty unit (and no, "self check" is most certainly NOT a valid test - I can tell you that as a software engineer).
So, personally if I had the money - I'd have both anyway - why not. However, since I am not filthy rich - I choose SPOT.
Note: SPOTs satellite coverage is not as comprehensive (it is Globalstars *data* link coverage) and if I planned to sail outside SPOT coverage area, I would choose EPIRB. However, since that is absolutely impossible as I don't plan to sail in extreme lattitudes - it's a purely theoretical note.