Coast Guard requests public help in preventing unnecessary emergency responses

SEATTLE — The Coast Guard is requesting the public’s help in preventing unnecessary emergency responses by Coast Guard crews and local responders in the northern Washington area especially in the greater Puget Sound area.

On average, Washington-based Coast Guard personnel expend 600 search hours each month responding to vessels that are unmanned and adrift with the vast majority of these cases turning out to be non-distress situations.

Helicopter and boat crews spent a combined 10 hours, Wednesday, responding to four boats that, after extensive searches, appear to have simply drifted from their moorings in heavy winds. While the Coast Guard responds to similar cases throughout the year, the heavy sustained winds and windstorms during the winter cause a dramatic increase in the number of these incidents.

“As our boating public becomes aware of incoming heavy weather, we’re asking they take an extra moment to secure their property, ” said Cmdr. Jo-Ann Burdian, chief of response Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound. “When boats and watercraft break free they frequently prompt a Coast Guard response. The effort can be prolonged if we are unable to quickly identify or contact the owner to confirm that no one is in distress. These cases put operational crews at significant risk in highly challenging environmental conditions to respond to reports that, on many occasions, do not involve mariners in distress.”

Here are a few tips:

  • If two lines are normally used to tie up, consider using four prior to an incoming storm
  • If you normally leave watercraft on a dock, consider placing it in a protected area like a shed or garage during a storm
  • Inspect your lines and replace worn and weathered lines with new ones to prevent a breaking of a line
  • Anchoring a boat is often not sufficient during major wind events, so take time to place your boat in a protected marina
  • For canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards, affix two current contact numbers to the hull to aid in owner identification and contact.
  • Double check vessel registration to make sure it contains accurate, updated contact information and phone numbers.

“We treat each report of these unmanned vessels as a possible distress situation, and we launch Coast Guard search and rescue assets to investigate and assist,” said Burdian. “We are asking for the public’s help on this issue so we can preserve resources for those vessels and people who truly need our assistance.”

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