Coast Guard Erects Rescue21 Tower on Long Island

NEW HAVEN, Conn.- Long Island citizens traveling around Robert Moses State Park Wednesday will be greeted with an unusual sight, but one that’s sure to improve their safety on the water. The U.S. Coast Guard is proceeding with its rescue system recapitalization project, Rescue21, with the erection of a 400-foot transmitter tower on its station near the state park.

The tower will be built in two stages over two days. A crane will erect the 180-foot base structure and a Sikorsky heavy-lift helicopter will then set the 220-foot upper portion of the tower atop the base. The existing radio tower at Coast Guard Station Fire Island will be removed.

The VHF-FM short-range communications system is the backbone of the Coast Guard’s National Distress and Response System (NDRS). The basic components of NDRS include radios, transceivers, towers for antennas, and an interconnecting network. It is the foundation for coastal search and rescue and important to maritime homeland security.

“The lives of mariners in the coastal zone depend upon the Coast Guard and a fully functional National Distress and Response System,” said Captain Peter J. Boynton, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, based in New Haven. Conn. “Rescue21 is saving lives and making America safer by allowing us to quickly find and rescue mariners in distress, as well as protect our inland rivers, ports and coastlines from a broad range of hazards and threats.”

The $730 Million modernization project Rescue21 is being phased in around the country. It is fully operational along 1,500 miles of coast off Southern New Jersey, Virginia, Alabama, Southern California and Washington, and should be fully implemented nationwide by 2011.

Rescue21 promises to improve upon the service’s 30-year-old system it is replacing by incorporating technology that can eliminate communications gaps and can triangulate a distress call to within a few meters of a person or vessel in distress. Specifically, Rescue21:

    Reduces 88 known coverage gaps nationally, while ensuring continuous, enhanced VHF-FM marine radio coverage out to 20 miles from shore;
    Improves the ability to review and decipher garbled transmissions through its enhanced, digitized voice playback; a critical capability in search planning;
    Enhances interoperability with other federal, state and local agencies, allowing for more real-time information exchange;
    Provides greatly improved direction-finding capability for more timely response to mariners in distress; and
    Identifies hoax calls made from inland areas, reducing potential harm to crew and saves taxpayer money.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires an environmental impact study before any tower structure could be built. The Coast Guard held public meetings at the West Islip High School Jan. 26, 2005, to learn of community concerns and submitted a completed environmental impact assessment for the Fire Island tower site July 15, 2005.

Visit the Rescue21 website for more information on the system.

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