19 June 2016

Coast Guard Mobile App, Boating Safety, Emergency Distress Equipment

Coast Guard mobile app for boating safety:

Overview of Coast Guard mobile application for boating safety for smartphones. U.S. Coast Guard video published May 12, 2015. More info: http://www.uscg.mil/mobile/. As the nation's recreational boating safety coordinator, the Coast Guard works to minimize loss of life, personal injury, property damage, and environmental harm. The Coast Guard's boating safety program involves public education programs, regulation of boat design and construction, approval of boating safety equipment, and vessel safety checks for compliance with federal and state safety requirements. The Coast Guard mobile app supports these missions by providing the essential services and information most commonly requested by boaters.

National Safe Boating Week, Coast Guard stresses importance of carrying life-saving emergency distress equipment: "... the Great Lakes Coast Guard is reminding boaters of the importance of carrying life-saving emergency distress equipment. While many boaters rely on cell phones for emergency communications on the water, personal locator beacons are much more reliable in the marine environment. The Coast Guard highly recommends all mariners equip their boats with Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and/or their life jackets with Personal Locator Beacons.
“EPIRBs and PLBs are absolutely invaluable during emergencies because they instantly alert responders to your distress, provide a precise GPS location and give a description of your vessel when they’re properly registered,” said Mike Baron, the recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard 9th District. “If your boat capsizes or you fall overboard and can’t get to your radio, these small, relatively inexpensive pieces of equipment, along with your life jacket, really could be the difference between living and dying.”
EPIRBs and PLBs may be activated manually by the push of a button or automatically when they enter the water, depending on the model. A PLB is a small battery-powered device that transmits a digital burst to a satellite once every 50 seconds, which the Coast Guard monitors. These devices have a shelf life of 6 to 8 years. PLBs send out a continuous signal for 48 hours unless turned off. New search-and rescue technology aboard Coast Guard Dolphin helicopters and 45-foot response boats can now hone in on the signal of a transmitting PLB. The 406Mhz PLB signals are coded, allowing non-PLB signals to be filtered out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operated search and rescue satellite aided tracking.

Additionally, in accordance with federal law, recreational boats 16 feet and longer are required to carry visual distress signals such as flares, smoke signals or non-pyrotechnic devices, and vessels 12 meters or longer are required to carry sound-producing devices such as whistles, bells and gongs. State and local laws may require further safety equipment.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration search and rescue satellite aided tracking system counts that in 2015, 138 people were rescued at sea in 46 different incidents by using an EPIRB or PLB. In the U.S., more than 7,800 people have been rescued by EPIRB or PLB since 1982.

Coast Guard urges float plans: "The Coast Guard urges all boaters to file a float plan with family or friends during National Safe Boating Week and the boating season. A float plan, similar to a life jacket, is a life-saving device on paper, which can make a difference in rescue and response time in the event of an emergency. Before boaters embark, they should leave detailed information about their trip with a family member or friend who is staying ashore. Include all information that would help rescuers in case of emergency, such as how many people are aboard, where you are leaving from and returning to, your intended route, how long you will be out and a description of your boat. However, do not file float plans with the Coast Guard. A float plan is equally effective for the owner of a kayak or flat-bottom skiff as it is for a large cruiser, a 90-foot sport-fishing vessel or luxury yacht. Typically, the owner or master of the vessel is the individual who prepares the float plan; however, any member of the crew can be assigned the preparation and filing duty. To obtain a float plan form, click here for a downloadable form."

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