Rescue 21: Marine's version of 9-1-1 - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Rescue 21: Marine's version of 9-1-1

By Juan Carlos Fanjul bio | email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

LAKE WORTH, FL (WFLX) - Josh Karusaz and his son, Ben, set out on a day of fishing in the Atlantic. "Generally, I'll go between five and 12 miles; sometimes up to 25 miles."

While going out in the ocean is generally safe being lost at sea is always a possibility. That's why he's got an emergency satellite tracker and GPS.

But, as it turns out, his old fashion VHF radio has found new life turning into the ultimate life-saver.

"It's a brand new system," said Chris Abernethy with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Abernethy, who's stationed at the Lake Worth Inlet, is talking about the recently installed "Rescue 21", a new computerized program that has revolutionized one of the Coast Guard's core missions. "It takes the search out of search and rescue."

The guy, who runs the radio room at the Coast Guard station, has ten radios to listen to. He used to ask boaters, calling a Mayday, all sorts of questions to try to figure where they were. "If he didn't have GPS, I would ask what do you see? How far off are you? What inlet did you go out of? What direction did you turn."

That would often take up precious minutes if a boater was sinking or someone on board was injured. Now, all it takes is one click of the radio microphone. The signal from the boat's antenna can now be received directionally by the Coast Guard's 1,000-feet-tall radio towers in Hobe Sound and near Lantana.

Rescue 21 immediately triangulates the position of the boater on a computer display back at the station. "And I could go to where they cross, and that would give me a position, and that position would be 9-1 North, 2-1 West. Now, I know exactly where to send my boat."

Commanding Officer James Mullinax, USCG, said, "That's a vast improvement over what we had in the past. We are hearing more people out there."

The Coast Guard's commanding officer says Rescue 21 has, in some instances, more than doubled the range the Coast Guard can receive conventional radio signals.

In the past, the Coast Guard had to send patrol boats to just about every call. But, now, with Rescue 21 technology, they can tell the difference between a real call and a hoax.

"If I'm looking at the Rescue 21 computer, it gives me a couple of lines of position that clearly show the call is not originating 15 miles off shore, but the parking lot of a Walmart." explained Mullinax.

The Coast Guard can now record all transmissions, too. "If I thought that was a Mayday call, but wasn't sure, what did he say? I can go back and play the audio."

For boaters, like Karusaz, it just makes them feel safer knowing they have a marine version of 9-1-1. "Any little bit of safety you can have on the boat helps."

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