False alert, unnecessary search prompts Coast Guard reminder to boaters

Southeastern Coast Guard News
NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – A false alert to the Coast Guard which prompted an overnight search near New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Tuesday is causing the Coast Guard to remind boaters to ensure their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons are properly registered and maintained and correct disposal methods are used when necessary.

EPIRBs are emergency devices, intended for use by boaters during distress situations, which send electronic distress signals and GPS coordinates by automatic or manual activation to first responders.

Watchstanders in the 7th Coast Guard District command center, in Miami, detected a 406 megahertz EPIRB signal transmitting near the Main Street bridge in New Smyrna Beach at 11 p.m., Tuesday. Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, Fla., command center were notified and issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast at 11:15 p.m. Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Ponce de Leon Inlet, in New Smyrna Beach were launched aboard a 24-foot Special Purpose Craft to respond.

Station Ponce de Leon Inlet crewmembers searched for two hours, finding neither signs of distress nor any vessels transiting the area, before returning to base at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. Sector Jacksonville watchstanders continued to broadcast the UMIB throughout the night. Meanwhile Coast Guard personnel continued to investigate the source of the signal and track down the registered owner.

Sector Jacksonville command center watchstanders located the owner of the vessel to which the EPIRB was registered, and he confirmed he was not in distress and the vessel was actually moored at Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach, Fla. The man stated he had purchased a new EPIRB and thrown out his old one, the same one emitting the distress signal, 16 hours earlier. Marina employees found the EPIRB in the garbage and removed the battery, causing the signal to cease transmission.

Because the case is considered a false alert and the activation was accidental, the owner of the EPIRB will not be charged for the cost of the response.

The Coast Guard encourages mariners to purchase EPIRBs for their vessels. They can help save lives in the event of an emergency and, depending on the model, may last three to five years before expiring. Anyone who purchases an EPIRB should register it as soon as possible. Registration should include the owner’s current address, a phone number where the owner can be reached quickly, and information about the vessel, including make, model, and color. Knowing how to properly handle an EPIRB is also important, as inverting or submerging an EPIRB in water may cause it to automatically activate. Mariners should also perform monthly checks on their EPIRBs for damage or water intrusion and only test the device by using the self-test function to avoid a false alert.

Anyone who accidentally activates an EPIRB should immediately notify the Coast Guard by calling 855-406-8724.

For more information on EPIRB’s, visit www.sarsat.noaa.gov.

For information on how to prevent an EPIRB false alert, visit http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/false.html.

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