Coast Guard warns of the impact of hoax distress calls

1st Coast Guard District NewsSOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – Coast Guard Sector Northern New England responds to more than twelve cases on a typical summer day. False alerts restrict their ability to respond to real emergencies.

In 2014, Sector Northern New England responded to 464 search and rescue cases: 76 were never resolved.

“When our searches come up empty-handed, the hardest part is never knowing whether the distress was real or not,” said Lt. Scott McCann, Command Center Chief at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. “We have a limited amount of boats, aircraft, and personnel. Responding to hoax calls puts our crews at risk and decreases our ability to respond to boaters who need our help.”

On Wednesday, Owen Adair pled guilty to making a hoax call from the shore on Vinalhaven, Maine, on September 30, 2014. Upon receipt of his distress radio call, the Coast Guard launched rescue crews that searched upwards of seven hours and employed 16 personnel, costing more than $30,000.

Knowingly and willfully communicating a false distress message to the Coast Guard and causing them to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed is a violation of Title 14, United States Code, Section 88c. The violation is punishable by up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If a minor makes the hoax call, parents may be held responsible.

If you hear a hoax call, or you have information which might lead to the perpetrator of a hoax, please call U.S. Coast Guard Sector Northern New England at (207) 767-0303 or contact the Federal Communications Commission.

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