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Hoaxes and False Alarms






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--Alen Lakein


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Search and Rescue

Having a general understanding of what is involved in a Search and Rescue mission, will help you appreciate the true value of your Float Plan, and the time you've spent preparing it.

The U.S. Coast Guard defines Search and Rescue (SAR), as the use of available resources to help persons and property in potential or actual distress. It is the explicit policy of the United States, as expressed in Federal Statutes, to provide assistance to persons and property in distress.

A SAR activity is divided into five stages:

  1. Awareness - The first receipt of information by the SAR system of an actual or potential SAR incident initiates the Awareness stage. Persons or craft in distress may report a problem, nearby persons may observe an incident, or an uncertainty may exist due to failure to communicate or to arrive at a destination (Overdue). The receiving and recording of information do not delay other SAR response. The SAR System maintains communication with the person or craft reporting an emergency, and they are kept advised of action being taken.

  2. Initial Action - This stage is the period in which the SAR system begins response, and follows immediately after an element of the system is made aware of the emergency. Unless the incident is clearly a hoax or false alarm, or occurs outside its jurisdiction, the very first step is to determine the degree of severity of the incident, and classify it's phase as Uncertainty, Alert, or Distress.  The nature of the incident and the rate the situation may deteriorate determine the urgency of response. The chances of survival diminish with time and the seriousness of the incident, so these two aspects (severity and urgency) are evaluated as quickly as possible. Signaling equipment available to survivors greatly influence the degree of urgency and type of SAR response most suitable to the circumstances. In urgent cases however, this stage is skipped and immediate action is taken.

  3. Planning - When an incident has progressed to the point of where it is classified as a Distress, and the exact location of the Distress is either not known, or a significant amount of time has passed since the search object's exact position was last known, the development of operational plans, i.e. plans for search, rescue, and final delivery are necessary.

  4. Operations:

    1. The dispatch of Search/Rescue units

    2. Conducting the search

    3. Rescuing survivors

    4. Assisting the distressed craft

    5. Providing emergency care for survivors

    6. and, Delivering casualties to medical facilities.

  5. Mission Conclusion - The return of Search and Rescue units to a location where they are finally debriefed, refueled, replenished, re-manned, and prepared for other missions; and the completion of documentation of the SAR mission by all SAR facilities.

The USCG Float Plan is a critical tool in the Search and Rescue process. Your plan assists the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and other rescue personnel in bringing the most appropriate level of lifesaving resources to you, in your time of need.

Additional Reading...

The Cospas-Sarsat program is operated in the United States by NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force and NASA. Since the inception of the system in 1982, over 15,000 lives have been rescued world-wide and nearly 4,500 lives have been rescued just in the United States.

An emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) and Personal Locator Beacon PLB) are devices designed to help save your life if you are in distress by alerting rescue authorities and indicating your location.




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WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 26, 2003)--Members of Coast Guard Auxiliary Occoquan, VA Flotilla 14-06 prepares to secure a towline to take Auxiliary Vessel (background) in tow, during a training exercise on the Potomac River, in Charles County, MD. Coast Guard and Auxiliary boat crews regularly train and practice search and rescue and other skills, to ensure peak proficiency. USCG photo by Joseph P. Cirone, USCGAUX

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NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (Dec. 4, 2003) Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Richardson, an aviation maintenance technician at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, lowers the Jayhawk's basket to the waiting 47-foot rescue boat from Station Merrimack River as part of his re-qualification training required after recently reporting to the station. USCG photo by PA2 Amy Thomas.

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SAN DIEGO, Ca (July 12)--Watchstanders from Coast Guard Activities San Diego test new equipment from NDRSMP at SPAWAR in San Diego.  The watchstanders were working a simulated case with Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels underway and making transmissions.  USCG photo by PA1 Jamie Devitt-Chacon.



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