US Coast Guard: How to Call for Assistance if on Water

Posted by LT Stephanie Young, Thursday, June 20, 2013

A digital selective calling VHF-FM marine-band radio allows for a digital transfer between radios versus voice transmission which allows mariners to instantly send an automatically formatted distress alert to the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandyn Hill.

A digital selective calling VHF-FM marine-band radio allows for a digital transfer between radios versus voice transmission which allows mariners to instantly send an automatically formatted distress alert to the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandyn Hill.

Written by Lt. Cmdr. Connie Braesch.

Knowing how to reach the Coast Guard in an emergency is an important step in getting help quickly. Dialing 9-1-1 may be the best for an emergency on land, but not on the water. Boaters should use marine two-way radios, not cell phones. These broadcast radios allow everyone to listen; whereas a phone call only goes to the number dialed.

Okay, so you have your two-way marine radio. But, how do you know which frequency to use? Choosing the right radio channel or frequency can be confusing.

What is VHF and when do you use it?

Very High Frequency, or VHF, is for emergency and routine line of sight for communications over short distances. Channel 16, is the voice distress channel monitored by the Coast Guard and your fellow boaters on VHF. It is very important to monitor Channel 16; it may save your life or someone else’s. Channel 70 is the digital equivalent of Channel 16, providing your location and identity on a properly configure VHF digital selective calling, or DSC, radios. A complete list of channels can be found at the Coast Guard Navigation Center’s Website.

What is HF and when do you use it?

Petty Officer 1st Class Ramona Mason, an operations specialist, monitors radio traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bradshaw.

Petty Officer 1st Class Ramona Mason, an operations specialist, monitors radio traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bradshaw.

High Frequency, or HF, is for emergency and routine beyond line of sight for communications. Unlike VHF which can be heard up to 20 nautical miles, HF calls can travel over great distances from hundreds to thousands of mile due to signal bouncing and atmospheric conditions. In general the Coast Guard and professional mariners monitor frequencies between 4 and 25 megahertz. An exact listing of frequencies can be found at the Coast Guard Navigation Center’s Website.

What is MF and when do you use it?

The Medium Frequency, or MF, distress frequency is found on 2182 kilohertz. While the Coast Guard will no longer monitor the MF distress frequency as of August 1, 2013, mariners can alternatively use HF radio frequencies or Digital Select Calling in the 4 to 12 megahertz bands.

Are there other ways to contact the Coast Guard in an emergency?

The International Maritime Organization, Coast Guard and Federal Communications Commission strongly recommend the use of a 406 megahertz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, or EPIRB, to indicate a distress situation. EPIRBs are satellite-based and route your identification and position to the appropriate rescue authority. In addition to your location, a properly registered beacon provides owner identity, vessel description and emergency points of contact to the rescue authority.

All clear now? If not, drop a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Understanding how to reach the Coast Guard is important to getting help in an emergency and we want everyone to have a safe boating season.

Source:  U.S. Coast Guard

Reblogged:  6/27/13 1245 PDT

 

2013 The NW Fire Blog

EMS Partners Ready to Respond, To Any Disaster

Posted by LT Stephanie Young, Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An Air Station New Orleans crew conducts an overflight near the Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII, Jan. 31, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Carlos Vega.

An Air Station New Orleans crew conducts an overflight near the Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII, Jan. 31, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Carlos Vega.

Coast Guard crews work year-round to ensure they are ready to support their community in the aftermath of disaster. In keeping with the service’s proud tradition of preserving life, the Coast Guard has plans in place to protect communities from manmade or natural disasters and one of the most important elements of these plans is communication.

When disaster hits, communication is essential among first responders to coordinate rescue and recovery efforts. Traditionally, the Coast Guard has utilized radios, emails, telephones and basic computer systems to communicate, store, and share information.

Members of the Port of New Orleans Harbor Police Department conduct safety and security patrols with a Coast Guard response boat for Super Bowl XLVII on the lower Mississippi River, Jan. 31, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Colclough.

Members of the Port of New Orleans Harbor Police Department conduct safety and security patrols with a Coast Guard response boat for Super Bowl XLVII on the lower Mississippi River, Jan. 31, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Colclough.

While the Coast Guard will always rely on traditional telecommunications such as radios, emails and telephones, it also has a powerful tool to coordinate response efforts with federal, state local and private sector partners – the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Information Network.

Known as HSIN, this innovative network is a secure system providing real-time collaboration tools, including a virtual meeting space, instant messaging and document sharing. In short, this network allows the Coast Guard to share information with other agencies instantly, regardless of their location, to communicate, collaborate and coordinate.

This tool is invaluable for units involved in hurricane response efforts, including law enforcement, emergency management and humanitarian agencies.

“HSIN allows government agencies at all levels to directly collaborate and share information with others including the private sector like energy companies and private rail while maintaining proper information security,” said Lt. Joel Kurucar of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, who has worked to incorporate HSIN into Coast Guard operations. “During event and incident responses, information from responders is passed through operational command centers. While those are still critical to response efforts, HSIN cuts out the ‘middle man’ and allows information from the source to be shared with all responders faster and more effectively than ever before.”

The network has been used in most hurricane response efforts in the Southeast since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When Hurricane Katrina made landfall, New Orleans’ 911 system was knocked offline and calls were re-routed to Baton Rouge, La. HSIN was used to relay information from thousands of emergency calls to first responders in New Orleans, resulting in lives saved.

But responders are constantly improving their capabilities. For the first time this year, live video feed was shared through HSIN during the Super Bowl to assist with surveillance efforts.

Members of the unified command stand watch at the maritime security operations center stood up for Super Bowl XLVII at the New Orleans Harbor Police Department, Jan. 31, 2013. The Coast Guard was one of 16 law enforcement agencies staffing the command center for Super Bowl operations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Colclough.

Members of the unified command stand watch at the maritime security operations center stood up for Super Bowl XLVII at the New Orleans Harbor Police Department, Jan. 31, 2013. The Coast Guard was one of 16 law enforcement agencies staffing the command center for Super Bowl operations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Colclough.

“HSIN is able to fill in the gaps when it comes to emergency response and provides the flexibility to modify tools used for response efforts,” said Kurucar. “We were able to leverage the tools available in HSIN to meet the needs of vastly different responses including oil spills, marine casualties, hurricane responses and mid-to-large planned events. Each response or event is different and the ability to adjust the information sharing tools available to meet mission demand is critical to success.”

This year, the Coast Guard plans to coordinate response efforts not only online, but also on the go with the roll out of a Coast Guard-developed mobile interface.

The mobile interface will allow information to flow through HSIN from almost any location. This means more real-time information, even for those out in the field responding.

The value of the mobile interface was seen firsthand during this year’s Super Bowl, where more than 500 first responders were able to communicate directly with seven operations centers, drastically increasing transition speeds, accuracy of data and security.

“The HSIN mobile interface played a prominent role in deconflicting reports and speeding the response to the power outage during the Super Bowl,” said Kurucar. “As soon as the power outage took place, City of New Orleans officials were posting updates on HSIN, and first responders in the field were able to check these updates on their mobile devices allowing them to efficiently concentrate their efforts in the field and reduce calls to the city’s operations center who was handling the incident.”

Quick communication is key in response efforts – from posting information about evacuation shelters and routes to requesting assistance from neighboring states or counties to sharing on-the-ground information about search and rescue efforts.

Preparing U.S. ports and cities for disaster is a year-round effort that often goes unnoticed. In the face of disaster, however, the plans developed by local, state and federal agencies will save lives. No one knows what this year’s hurricane season will be like, but with tools like the Homeland Security Information Network the Coast Guard remains ready to respond.

Major Bridge Collapses Over I-5 in Skagit County, Mt. Vernon, WA

At approximately 1914 Hours, Washington State Trooper Mark Francis tweeted that the major bridge over Skagit River in Mt. Vernon, Washington, had collapsed. 

Fire and PD crews began descending on scene immediately and details of the major collapse began pouring in.  To listen in on the conversations, check out our Twitter page @nwfireblog.

Reports of several cars into the water with multiple persons were witnessed by stunned onlookers, media sources began tweeting.  Online radio traffic could be heard between the Fire and PD Dispatchers and resources on scene.

Dive teams, boats and choppers were deployed from Snohomish County, Coast  Guard and NAS Whidbey and have reached the scene.  Also, a helo from Airlift NW has been deployed.  Area resources are pouring into the scene, but as of 2030 Hours there is no current need.

Several people have been hoisted out of their vehicles and are on their way to safety.  Helos are being deployed to look for victims in the water.

Police and Fire crews are asking that people stay away from the area. There is an influx of citizens and others self-deploying into the area.  They are desperately trying to funnel people away from the area.  Too many are coming into the area, overwhelming local officials. 

The best route to avoid the area is to go SR 9.  Please, please, please don’t come into the area as Officials are so overwhelmed and resources are coming out of the woodwork.

For those who live in that area, please drive carefully and avoid the area at all when possible.

We are sending high praises to our Fire, EMS and First Responders that have convened on the scene. Your quick response is being highly praised.  We hope that you all stay out there.

(c) 2013 The NW Fire Blog

American Red Cross, Coast Guard Join Partnership

ELIZABETH CITY, NC, Monday, October 29, 2012 – Representatives from the American Red Cross Greater Albemarle Area Chapter, in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, met with the survivors of the HMS Bounty. Early this morning, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 people from HMS Bounty some 90 miles off the coast of Hatteras, NC amidst treacherous winds and seas. The HMS Bounty- a 180 ft. sailing ship featured in movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean- was traveling from Connecticut in route to Florida when they sent out a distressed signal Sunday night.

The Coast Guard contacted the local Red Cross (the two organizations work in partnership on many kinds of disaster responses) to arrange a meeting with the 14 individuals rescued from the ship. Red Cross disaster volunteers spoke with each of the clients offering their comfort and support as well as providing them with food, clothing, and shelter, and assisting with other immediate needs as necessary.

“We support our community during all types of disaster whether that’s a hurricane, a home fire, or in this case, an ocean rescue,” said Carolyn Self, Executive Director for the Greater Albemarle Area Chapter.

In addition to supporting this Coast Guard rescue mission, the Greater Albemarle Area Red Cross has been headquarters to the local Hurricane Sandy response operation since early last Friday. Red Cross workers there are supporting shelters, doing damage assessment, and providing food and supplies to residents throughout the northeastern part of NC.

“We rely on the support of the community, through donations of time, money and blood, to ensure we are always there when help is needed,” said Self.

If you would like to help people affected by these disasters, you can make a donation today to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting http://www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Courtesy: American Red Cross website

Reposted 1830 Hours PST 10/29/12