Three rescues, three days, 12 lives saved

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During the course of three days, the Coast Guard rescued 12 people from three disabled boats in Florida and Georgia. All were saved as a result of PLB alerting authorities to their distress and location.

Officer Cindy Beckert said the Coast Guard cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a registered EPIRB or PLB on board when boating.

"The beacons really help with rescues. They shorten our response time and we go right to those in distress. Beacons are valuable time savers that save us from searching over wide areas. We know exactly where to go. Everyone should have one," Beckert said.

In the recent rescues, all three boats were at least 20 miles off the coasts of north Florida and southern Georgia. Their extensive distance from shore limited communication methods such as cell phones or VHF radios. One boater, who was 150 miles east of Brunswick, Ga., had a satellite phone that did not transmit reliably.

In each emergency, the boaters activated their PLBs as signaling devices of last resort after all methods of self-rescue were exhausted. In all three rescues, the beacon's signal enabled the Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews to pinpoint the survivors' exact latitude and longitude positions and arrive on scene within two hours.

* On June 27, six people were recovered at 3:30 p.m. from a disabled 38-foot boat, Holler Back, 20 miles northeast of Daytona Beach, Fla. The Coast Guard towed the vessel to shore. No reports of injury.

* On June 28 shortly after midnight, three men fishing 20 miles east of St. Mary's, Ga., were thrown into the water when their 23-foot fishing boat capsized. Two men were able to climb onto the overturned hull; one remained in the water. A Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the survivor from the water and a Coast Guard motor lifeboat crew rescued the men from atop the vessel. The survivors were in good condition.

* On June 29, the Coast Guard received a satellite phone call that the 37-foot vessel Cheeky 2 had engine failure 150 miles offshore. Because of limited communication, the boat's crew activated their ResQFix 406 GPS PLB. A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane used the beacon's signal to locate the boat. A nearby Coast Guard cutter transferred the boaters aboard and a second USCG cutter towed the vessel to shore. No injuries were reported.

All three of the PLBs activated were ACR Electronics beacons — an AquaFix 406 GPS and two ResQFix 406 GPS PLBs.

NOAA has reported that in 2008, COSPAS-SARSAT assisted in the rescue of 203 people in 65 incidents at sea. Worldwide, the COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz satellite system, which is celebrating 26 years of operation, is credited with rescuing more than 24,500 people since the program's inception in 1982.

Of that number, more than 6,110 persons were rescued in the U.S.