SEATTLE – Coast Guard Sector Seattle received two distress calls via VHF channel 16 from a 7-year-old boy in Maple Valley, Wash., Sunday.
In the first call, received at noon, the boy stated that he was drowning. At 6 p.m. he made a second call saying his boat had a hole in it and was sinking.
The watch stander at Sector Seattle was able to get a partial address from the child and both times the child gave his name.
The address collaborated with the Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 lines of bearings received from communications high sites. King County deputies were able to locate the child’s home in Maple Valley using the partial address.
The child admitted to the deputies that he made the distress calls while his father was asleep.
The Coast Guard is once again urging people to not make hoax calls to emergency responders.
“Hoax and prank calls not only diminish the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to real emergencies and cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, they also needlessly place Coast Guard men and women and other first responders at risk,” said Rear Admiral John Currier, Coast Guard District 13 Commander.
Every moment spent responding to a false report takes away from time that could be vital in the case of a genuine emergency.
Last month the response to a suspected hoax call cost in excess of $38,000 for a 12 hour search.
Another important factor to consider is the cost to those who are found guilty of making false reports. Children especially should be informed of the risks involved with making false reports.
Two Oregon youths were found guilty of making several false reports in 2005 and fined a combined total of $63,884.30 and were ordered to serve a combined total of 40 days in juvenile hall.
It is a federal felony for anyone to knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or cause the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed. Penalties include up to six years in prison, $250,000 fine, $5,000 civil penalty, and possible reimbursement to the Coast Guard for costs of the search. For example, a Florida man was sentenced to pay $597,000 after he made a false report during Hurricane Alberto in 2006.
A breakdown of Coast Guard operating costs can be found at http://www.uscg.mil/directives/ci/7000-7999/CI_7310_1L.PDF