Coast Guard asks public to help in search and rescue

Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound LogoNEW YORK — The Coast Guard is looking for help from paddle sports enthusiasts in an effort to help save lives and taxpayers’ dollars.

Capt. Joseph Vojvodich, Commander of Sector Long Island Sound, New Haven, Conn., wants to emphasize a campaign that encourages kayakers and canoeists to label their boats, paddles and safety gear with their names and contact information. This campaign helps the Coast Guard to determine if gear was accidentally lost, or if someone is in real danger, when it is found adrift.

“If there is a chance that someone is out there and in danger, we’re launching. We want Coast Guard eyes on scene. We’re going to figure out what happened and look for people in the water. Unfortunately, this means that we often spend a lot of time searching the water for people who are safe at home. If we are able to contact the owner and verify the vessel was not in use when we found it, the case can be avoided completely, conserving our Search and Rescue assets,” said Petty Officer First Class Anthony Kozak, a Search and Rescue Controller in the Command Center at Sector Long Island Sound.

Sector Long Island Sound launched a search for a person in the water when an empty kayak was found adrift Dec. 22, 2010. It cost approximately $400 to conduct the hour-long search in a small boat – longer searches with multiple surface and air assets drive up costs, as well as taking away search and rescue assets for real emergencies. Sector Long Island Sound responded to 53 cases during 2009 in which recreational boats and kayaks were found empty and adrift.

Clearly labeling all paddle equipment with identifying information could prevent searches for people who are not in danger and, in the case of a real emergency, can provide important information the Coast Guard can use to search.

“As people are winterizing their gear, it’s a great time to label everything. Contact information helps us get in touch with people who know information that refines our search, such as where you were going and what you are wearing. It’s critical to wear proper survival equipment. A life jacket or dry suit can significantly increase your chance of surviving and the more information we have about you, the more accurately we can plan our search. These elements increase our chances of finding you and getting you home safely,” said Ensign Joe Price Larson, Sector Long Island Sound’s Recreational Boating Safety Officer.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free identification stickers, which are available at all safe boating classes and events at which the Coast Guard Auxiliary is participating. Permanent markers and paint can also be used to label paddle boats and equipment, and multiple contact numbers are encouraged.

Contact information for local USCG Auxiliary Flotillas is available at http://www.cgaux.org/units.html

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