NOAA SATELLITES HELP KEEP COMPETITIVE SAILORS SAFE
Dec. 21, 2005 — The international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System (COSPAS-SARSAT) is giving an extra measure of safety for sailors competing in the worldwide Volvo Ocean Race. The SARSAT program is providing life-saving, alert capabilities for 21 emergency beacons, which were purchased by race organizers to use in the race. Each boat is carrying three Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons, or EPIRBS—one on the boat and one on each of the two life rafts onboard. Also available are Personal Locator Beacons, or PLBs. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite or GOES. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)
SARSAT uses NOAA's polar-orbiting and geostationary-orbiting satellites to detect and locate distress signals from EPIRBs (used onboard boats and ships), Emergency Locator Transmitters (carried aboard aircrafts) and PLBs (designed for hikers and campers, but increasingly used by sailors.)
Once the satellites pick up a distress signal, it is relayed to the U.S. Mission Control Center, which NOAA operates in Suitland, Md. After pinpointing the location of the distress, the signal is routed to a Rescue Coordination Center, operated by the U.S. Coast Guard or the Air Force. In the case of the Volvo Ocean Race, any distress signal also would be sent directly to Volvo Race Operations Center in Hampshire, England. The race operations center can contact other boats in the race, which potentially can provide the quickest emergency assistance.
"With such a long eight-month race on the high seas, where danger and the unexpected are always present, NOAA SARSAT wanted to make sure that sailors had the best, reliable method of being rescued if a mishap occurs," said Ajay Mehta, NOAA SARSAT program manager.
"The involvement of NOAA in the Volvo Ocean Race goes back many years," said Andy Hindley, director of the Volvo Ocean Race. "The speed and excitement of the new breed of ocean racing boat adds increased risk, but the risk is managed by newer and better technology. NOAA's ability to provide a faster response time, should an EPIRB be activated, is part of that risk management."
was established in 1982, NOAA satellites have helped rescue 5,102 people
in the United States and more than 18,500 worldwide. All owners of emergency
beacons, registered with NOAA, are covered under this search and rescue
The SARSAT program's involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race is part of a coordinated NOAA effort to provide services for the race and public educational materials about ocean science and technology.
agency of the U.S. Department of
Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national
safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related
events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal
and marine resources.
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