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Q&A: Preparedness

What can I do to better my chances of rescue in an emergency?

A recent rescue is a good example of how to optimize your chances when things go wrong. Four men in their mid-40s were aboard a 26-foot Cobalt powerboat that sank at night in 58-degree water 13 miles off California’s Catalina Island. Within 1 hour and 15 minutes all were safely out of the water. Here’s how the rescue played out.

Around 9:30 p.m. Dec. 5, the Coast Guard Command Center in San Pedro received three quick mayday calls via VHF channel 16, but the boaters didn’t give a location. Using the Rescue 21 command, control and communications system, watchstanders were able to pinpoint the origin of the transmission. Among its many other features, Rescue 21 uses direction-finding equipment to help locate boaters and supports digital selective calling over VHF radio.
Watchstanders also received notification from a personal locator beacon worn by the owner of the boat. Using the contact information from the registered PLB, the boater’s wife was called and was able to provide a description of the men, boat, route and destination.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter was launched and quickly located three of the men in the water, while a 45-foot Response Boat picked up the fourth boater nearby. They were suffering mild hypothermia and were judged to be in good condition. The Coast Guard commended the men, saying they greatly improved their chances of rescue by telling a friend or family member their departure location, route and destination; using a VHF radio; owning a registered PLB; and wearing PFDs and survival suits.
Rescue 21 enables the Coast Guard to perform missions with greater efficiency by improving logistics among federal, state and local agencies; enhancing the clarity of distress calls; allowing simultaneous channel monitoring; upgrading the playback and recording feature of distress calls; and reducing coverage gaps.

See related articles:

- Boat in fatal capsize was 'inappropriate' for race

- US Sailing weighs in on two other incidents

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue