July 07, 2008
"Responding to false alarms puts our crews at risk unnecessarily and prevents us from responding to actual emergencies," said Cmdr. Steve Pearson, response chief Sector Anchorage.
Watchstanders from Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, Communication Station Kodiak, the crew of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, the Seward Police Department and a Good Samaritan spent over five hours trying to locate the source of distress - a family tent camping on the beach at Fox Island.
Training your children to use flares is permissible and a good idea, however, individuals conducting training should alert the Coast Guard and other emergency responders in the area before firing flares. This step can prevent costly and unnecessary search efforts.
False distress calls cost the Coast Guard and Alaskan taxpayers more than $2 million annually. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and crew have an operating cost of $10,719 per hour. This false distress case exhausted 20.4 Coast Guard member hours; and 4.5 resource hours. All tallied this case cost the Coast Guard and the Alaskan taxpayers $50,020.50.
Flare launchings account for a small percentage of all false distress calls each year. One of the given reasons for launching flares is because "they are expired." The Coast Guard recommends keeping expired flares separate from non-expired flares if they remain with you or on your boat. If you no longer want them you can turn expired flares over to any Coast Guard or Coast Guard Auxiliary unit.
Flares are an emergency tool to communicate distress. Flares should not be used in place of fireworks. They look distinctly different from a firework. With Fourth of July celebrations on the horizon the Coast Guard would like to remind individuals not to fire off celebratory flares.
Mariners and the public are reminded that under Federal Law, an individual who knowingly and willfully communicates a false distress message to the Coast Guard or causes the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed is -- (1) guilty of a class D felony; (2) subject to a maximum of six years in prison; (3) subject to a fine of $250,000 and a civil penalty of not more than $5,000; and (4) liable for all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the individual's actions.
"Boaters can receive a free courtesy vessel exam from the Coast Guard Auxiliary to ensure they are better prepared for an emergency," said Pearson.
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