Contact: John Leslie
NOAA News Releases 2005
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U.S. Coast Guard crews – in two incidents – rescued five people from choppy waters off the Florida coast on June 10, and pushed the total lives saved in the United States, from the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System (COSPAS-SARSAT) beyond the 5,000 mark.

Since SARSAT was established in 1982, NOAA satellites — with their speedy detection and relay of distress signals from emergency beacons — have helped rescue 5,004 people in the United States, and more than 18,000 worldwide. On average, there are 203 U.S. rescues each year. So far in 2005, the SARSAT system has rescued 87 people.

“These rescues underscore the significance of SARSAT and demonstrates the program has done exactly what it was intended to do – save lives,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

SARSAT uses NOAA's polar-orbiting and geostationary-orbiting satellites to detect and locate Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (used onboard boats and ships), Emergency Locator Transmitters (carried aboard aircrafts) and Personal Locator Beacons (designed for hikers and campers.)

Once the satellites pick up a distress signal, it is relayed to the U.S. Mission Control Center, which NOAA operates in Suitland, Md. After pinpointing the location of the distress, the signal is routed to a Rescue Coordination Center operated by the U.S. Coast Guard or the Air Force. In the United States, the Coast Guard has responsibility for maritime distresses, and the Air Force handles inland search and rescue cases.

“Each of these rescues underscores the critical role of – and need for – emergency beacons and the SARSAT system. NOAA satellites and partnerships with the Air Force and Coast Guard have turned potential tragedies into triumphs,” said Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator for the NOAA Satellite and Information Service.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

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