Thousands of dollars wasted as Coast Guard responds to false calls

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The U.S. Coast Guard is warning boaters to keep their beacons properly registered following a year with hundreds of false alarms. 

An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon’s (EPIRB) is a device that transmits a distress signal to the Coast Guard and other emergency responders in case of an emergency at sea. 

However this year more than 700 false alerts were sent from the beacons, costing the Coast Guard valuable time and resources. 

“We handle EPIRB alerts with a bias for action,” said Lt. Daniel Dunn, a command duty officer in the Fifth Coast Guard District’s command center. “We have to treat them as actual distress calls until we can prove otherwise.”

The Federal Communications Commission requires all EPIRB owners to register their beacons with NOAA and keep the registration information up-to-date according to the Coast Guard release. 

When an EPIRB alert comes in and cannot be traced to an owner due to missing or outdated registration information, the Coast Guard will still launch aircraft and boat crews to search the area for signs of distress.

“If people used this system appropriately, it would take a lot of the guesswork out of search and rescue,” Dunn said. “Unregistered EPIRBs result in lost time, money, and the misuse of resources that could be used to save someone’s life.”

If an unregistered beacon activates, the FCC can prosecute the owner based on evidence provided by the Coast Guard, and will issue warning letters or notices of apparent liability for fines up to $10,000.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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