Registering Your Emergency Beacon May Save Your Life

Last year, 205 people in the U.S. were rescued at sea thanks to NOAA’s Search And Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) System. But those successful rescues would not have happened if the boat owners hadn’t previously registered their emergency beacons with NOAA.

That’s because NOAA is a part of COSPAS-SARSAT, a worldwide search and rescue program that relies on satellites and emergency beacons to detect and locate mariners, aviators, or individual adventurers in distress.

Here’s how NOAA describes the program:

COSPAS-SARSAT. . .uses a network of spacecraft to detect and locate distress signals quickly from emergency beacons employed on aircraft, boats, and from handheld personal locator beacons, or PLBs.

When a NOAA satellite pinpoints the location of a distress signal, the information is relayed to the SARSAT Mission Control Center at NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland. From there, the information is quickly sent to a Rescue Coordination Center, operated by either the U.S. Air Force for land rescues or the U.S. Coast Guard for water rescues.

If the location of the beacon is in another country’s area of responsibility, then the alert is transmitted to that country’s mission control center.

Sea Rescues Lead the Pack

In 2016, SARSAT supported the rescues of 307 people in the United States—with waterborne incidents far outnumbering both aviation and land rescues. Here are the stats from NOAA-SARSAT:

  • Rescues at sea: 205 people rescued in 55 incidents
  • Aviation rescues: 23 people rescued in 15 incidents
  • Terrestrial PLB rescues: 79 people rescued in 62 incidents 

Keep Your Registration Current

Registering your emergency beacon is required by law. But, registering will help ensure you get the speedy assistance you need if you’re ever in distress. Before boating season hits, why not take a few minutes to make sure your beacon is registered and good-to-go?

To register or update your emergency beacon information, visit http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/beacon.html.

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