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United States Coast Guard

Updated on January 2, 2013

United States Coast Guard Information

This page has information on the United States Coast Guard (USCG) as well as a selection of Coast Guard-related books, DVDs T shirts and apparel.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is a United States military branch whose duties include maritime law enforcement, mariner assistance, and search and rescue and others.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG)

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is a United States military branch. The duties of the Coast Guard include maritime law enforcement, mariner assistance, and search and rescue, and others.

One of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and the smallest armed service of the United States, its stated mission is to protect the public, the environment, and the United States economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America's coasts, ports, and inland waterways.

The Great Ships - The Coast Guard Ships (History Channel)
The Great Ships - The Coast Guard Ships (History Channel)

The United States Coast Guard has policed the nation's waters since the 1790s. From the first official vessels of the U.S. Government to today's specialized lifesaving craft, the ships of the Guard have played a vital role in maritime history. This in-depth program goes aboard some of the many craft employed by the Coast Guard, from the small boats used for shoreline rescue operations to the deep-sea patrol ships that form the vanguard in America's war against drugs. See dramatic footage of real-life search and rescue operations, and hear incredible stories of life-and-death missions from Coast Guard sailors and officers. And trace the evolution of the Guards' ships from the earliest Revenue Cutters to the myriad vessels of the modern force.System Requirements: Running Time 50 MinFormat: DVD MOVIE

The Story of the Coast Guard - Volume 1 In War and Peace
The Story of the Coast Guard - Volume 1 In War and Peace

The story of the Coast Guard is one of proud service in peace and at war. Featured on this DVD are six rare films rescued from government archives, dating as far back as 1935. They show some of the greatest moments in the history of the 'First Fleet' in the 20th Century.See the men of the Coast Guard as they keep the sea lanes safe, alerting merchant vessels to the presence of icebergs in the North Atlantic in "International Ice Patrol". Go with a cutter crew on the "Alaska Patrol" and see our nation's 50th State in full color circa 1950! Feel your pulse rise as the USCG cutter at Ocean Station November races to rescue the passengers and crew of a Pan Am Clipper forced to ditch in the Pacific. See cadets train for sea duty, and go with them aboard the training vessel Eagle. Finally, in "Coast Guard on Foreign Shores", see how the USCG helped change the course of WWII, fighting Hitler s U-boats, laying mines, and delivering hundreds of thousands of men and tons of equipment to battlefields from North Africa to Normandy to Iwo Jima.This is the ultimate gift for anyone who ever served in the Coast Guard! DVD runs 120 minutes, and contains films in black and white and full color. Because these are historic films, image and sound quality may vary. All films have been digitally transferred and remastered for this DVD.Please note: This DVD is presented in the DVD-R format. It may not play on older DVD players. Check your player's instruction manual for more information.

Coast Guard: Helicopters to the Rescue
Coast Guard: Helicopters to the Rescue

This dramatic special features phenomenal rescues with Coast Guard helicopters and crews. With amazing on-scene footage, youll fly with a Coast Guard team into a hurricane in an effort to rescue a family of four including a four-month old baby; into the mountains off the California coast to save the life of the victim of a tragic accident; along the Oregon coast for a harrowing rescue of a young man trapped on the side of a cliff; and over the waters of the Atlantic in a desperate search for a downed Air Force pilot.

Produced by Tam Communications in Association with the Discovery Channel

Coast Guard: Rescue Swimmers
Coast Guard: Rescue Swimmers

As featured in the motion picture The Guardian, these are the stories of real Coast Guard rescue swimmers. In this compelling special, we go behind-the-scenes with this elite group of helicopter rescue swimmers--trained to brave near-impossible situations, raging seas, cliffs and caves to save helpless victims. The program takes viewers into life-threatening rescue situations and features rescue swimmers describing the events from their own vantage points.

Produced by Tam Communications in Association with the Discovery Channel


Can the Coast Guard Board My Boat?

The Coast Guard can board your vessel in state and federal waters. A boarding is usually to do a vessel safety check.

However the Coast Guard is also charged with homeland security missions and enforces measures such as security zones. A simple safety violation warant a letter from a hearing officer, but violating security zones can lead to arrest and prosecution.

During a boarding officers look for hazards that may harm not only them, but also the operator and his or her passengers.

In worst case situations when the infraction cannot be fixed on site and poses a threat to safety, the Coast Guard can actually "terminate" a vessel's trip.

According to Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Charlie Gordon, "We can turn people around and tell them they need to go back to the pier and get whatever is wrong, fixed."

Less severe infractions can draw warnings or citations. In the case of the latter, a letter is sent to the boater from a Coast Guard hearing officer, and depending upon the past safety record of the operator, the latter may have a chance to prove that he or she remedied the problem or otherwise face a fine.

The United States Coast Guard Rescue 21 VHF Radio System

By Petty Officer Third Class Tara Molle

"I have a high regard for the Coast Guard because I'm aware of what they do...and the risks that they take...if you don't have times to get off a ‘Mayday', then Rescue 21 is helpful for people that use the water for pleasure and for commercial use. Probably the greatest asset the Coast Guard has had as a benefit for their use is Rescue 21...the equipment saved my life." Boater George Strawn - describing his rescue off Ocean City Inlet in Maryland. (December 2005)

For recreational and professional mariners, safety is a top priority. However, safety sometimes may not be at the top of the list. Whether it is commercial or leisure fishing, chartering a vessel, working on a freighter or just enjoying a sunny day on a boat, people just want to do their own thing and get lost in whatever task is at hand. Unfortunately, disaster can strike at any time. Harsh weather, vessel malfunctions or a person accidentally falling off a boat can mean tragedy if not dealt with quickly. Mariners may not have time to grab life jackets, let alone trying to call for help. For these and other reasons, the Coast Guard modernized outdated National Distress and Response System and created Rescue 21. The goal - to minimize the time between a call for help and the rescue.

Rescue 21 provides direction-finding capability and Digital Selective Calling, resulting in a more timely response to mariners in distress. The system also allows for protected communications during law enforcement and homeland security operations. Digital Selective Calling uses digital data rather than voice transmission to increase the range of maritime communications, the accuracy of data transmitted and the ability to direct that information to selective units.

"Rescue 21 is a leading edge VHF-FM radio system that replaces the outdated system from the 1970's," said Chief Petty Officer Mike Smith, an operations unit controller in the Puget Sound Joint Harbor Operations Center at Coast Guard Sector Seattle. "Rescue 21, how it applies here in the Puget Sound area is that it gives the ability for the Coast Guard to monitor simultaneously different radio frequencies and direction find on those frequencies and provide assistance to the mariners out on the water."

Rescue 21 replaces outdated technology and provides the Coast Guard with upgraded tools to protect the nation's coasts and rescue mariners at sea. Currently, Rescue 21 is operating across 16,557 miles of coastline. When completed, the system will cover more than 95,000 miles of coastline, navigable rivers and waterways in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico.

As of July of 2008, Rescue 21 has been fully implemented in the 13th District.

"Rescue 21 is a series of remote towers that are capable of transmitting, receiving and direction finding," said Eric Cookson, an operations unit controller in the Puget Sound Joint Harbor Operations Center at Coast Guard Sector Seattle.

There are 28, Rescue 21 towers set up throughout the 13th Coast Guard District.

"Rescue 21 has been in the Puget Sound/eattle area for approximately a year and a half to two years now and the system has proved itself to be very beneficial to us," said Smith. "We also have Digital Selective Calling that is part of the system, in essence, that is a panic button on a radio that a mariner can hit and that automatically will send a distress message along with a position of where they are to the Coast Guard."

Smith went on to explain how Rescue 21 works.

"[Our watchstanders utilize] radio monitors and dual monitor displays. On one monitor, we have a chart that shows us where mariners are located according to their lines of bearing from the RFF (Remote Fixed Facility). Anything that comes over Channel 16, which is our distress frequency, will appear red on the screen. Normal mariner calls will be in blue."

"We use this for search and rescue (SAR) as well," continued Smith. "In a SAR case, a mariner may only have the time to call ‘help' or ‘mayday.' In a matter of a few seconds after receiving that transmission, we are able to take the lines of bearing, which provides a location showing where that person is."

"Rescue 21 also gives us the ability to determine whether calls for help or maydays are real or a hoax," said Smith. "Hoaxes cost the Coast Guard thousands of dollars each year. Using Rescue 21, we are able to determine, through the direction finding system, if the call is coming from water or on land."

Smith went on to add that many times children (and sometimes adults) will stand on the water's edge and will make a call saying that they are sinking or are in immediate distress.

Just recently, the 13th District has endured several hoax calls from children. On one transmission, the child gave his name and a partial address to his house.

"The ‘mayday' hoax call was from a young child reporting that his boat was sinking," said Cookson. "Rescue 21 was able to direction find his location to the Maple Valley (Washington) area."

"What this does for the Coast Guard is that it causes us to launch rescue units to go investigate and look in the area where we think the call came from," said Smith. "How we use Rescue 21 on a hoax is it will produce a line of bearing where the call came from, however it won't give us an actual position or it may not triangulate. We may only get one bearing of call based upon its location and how the hills and mountains in the area affect the transmission."

The Coast Guard takes every distress call seriously and will launch assets immediately to the location of the call.

"We will send a boat or helicopter, which costs thousands of dollars per hour to operate to search for the person or persons we think are in distress," said Smith.

"Persons committing a hoax are subject to prosecution as a Class D felony and could be liable for a $5,000 fine including all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the individuals action," said Cookson.

"False distress calls not only cost taxpayers money and place Coast Guard members at increased personal risk, but more importantly, they divert limited resources from mariners who are in actual distress," said Capt. Mark D'Andrea, chief of response for the 13th District.

Hoaxes are not the only thing that presents a problem for the Coast Guard. Man-made and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2007 Pacific Northwest storms caused several communication problems throughout the troubled areas affected by heavy winds and rain. Rescue 21 is able to provide portable, deployable towers for the restoration of communications.

All and all, the new system will close 88 known coverage gaps in coastal areas of the United States, enhancing the safety of life at sea.

"With every rescue made and life saved, we are seeing the return on our investment in Rescue 21," said Admiral Thad Allen, during a speech he made in Scottsdale, Ariz., to the joint Coast Guard and General Dynamics project team about the operational importance of Rescue 21. "Rescue 21 is helping the Coast Guard take the ‘search' out of search and rescue."

source: USCG press release

United States Coast Guard Urges Boaters to Carry an EPIRB Rescue Beacon

USCG Recommends 406 MHz EPIRB Technolgy

Although recreational boaters are not required to carry an EPIRB, they are strongly recommended for ALL boaters, including kayaks and other paddle craft, along with a VHF-FM marine band radio. The 406 MHz signal sent by the newer EPIRBs when a mariner encounters distress are picked up by the COSPAS/SARSAT satellite constellation, which determines the EPIRBs position through triangulation. EPIRBs with embedded GPS are even more helpful in quickly finding a distressed boater. With GPS coordinates, the position of distress is pinpointed almost immediately. Without GPS, it may take two or three satellite passes to come up with a good, triangulated position.

source: USCG press release

Coast Guard T Shirts on Amazon

U.S. Coast Guard's 2007 Recreational Boating Statistics and Safe Boating Tips

The U.S. Coast Guard's 2007 Recreational Boating Statistics show:

685 fatalities, 3,673 injuries, 5,191 accidents and $53 million in property damage.

90 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.

Alcohol was the leading contributing factor in approximately one-fifth of all boating fatalities.

Only 14 percent of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.

The most reported type of accident was a collision with another vessel. However, capsizing and falls overboard are the most reported types of fatal accidents and accounted for the majority, 60 percent of all boating fatalities.

Overall, operator inattention, carelessness or reckless operation, excessive speed and passenger or skier behavior are the leading contributing factors of all reported accidents.

Tips for boaters on how to stay safe while boating:

Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are on board your vessel. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.

Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and you should keep a watchful eye on the forecasted conditions.

Have nautical charts of the area you are boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication on board your vessel. VHF radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and an inevitable dead battery.

Wear your life jacket! In an emergency, there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.

source: USCG press release

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