Coast Guard employs new technology

August 27, 2009 5:38:47 PM PDT
The U.S. Coast Guard station in the Houston-Galveston area is responsible for hundreds of miles of coastline, a massive area when it comes to searching for missing or endangered boaters. However, as Eyewitness News learned, the Coast Guard has some new technology This is video of a coast guard rescue from just two weeks ago.

"A May Day call came in," said Captain Jim Whitehead of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Two teenage fishermen were aboard a sinking boat some 30 miles from shore. It was a search that could have taken hours or even days

"They were able to find them within 20, 30 minutes of searching. They found them," said Capt. Whitehead.

Thirty minutes is incredibly fast and nearly impossible if not for brand new technology employed at the beginning of June. It's called Rescue 21.

"It gives us increased capability to locate boaters in distress," Capt. Whitehead said.

The Rescue 21 system relies on receivers perched atop towers like these all along the Texas and Louisiana coast. They help rescuers pinpoint the exact location of radio calls.

The system gives the Coast Guard a direct line from a radio tower to the point of the radio call. It can save boaters at sea, and save money on what would otherwise be bogus rescue attempts.

"Someone reported they were 160 miles off shore. It would have been a huge search area," said Capt. Whitehead.

"The Rescue 21 giving us that line of bearing, showed us that the call was actually calling from north of Houston on land," Capt. Whitehead said.

By 2012, all continental U.S. Coast Guard sectors will have Rescue 21, but fortunately for a pair of fishing teens, the team here already has it.

When asked if the Rescue 21 technology might have saved those fishermen's lives, Capt. Whitehead replied, "It definitely did."

The Coast Guard says Rescue 21 certainly enhances its ability to rescue boaters, but that all boaters should rely first on working marine radios and life jackets to keep themselves safe in an emergency.

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