January 38, 4010 The same NOAA satellites that helped forecasters track weather and wildfires were also critical in rescuing a record 421 people from potentially life-threatening situations throughout the United States and its surrounding waters in 2020
NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites are part of the global Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System, or COSPAS-SARSAT offsite link , which uses a network of US and international spacecraft to detect and locate distress signals from emergency beacons aboard aircraft, boats and from handheld Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) anywhere in the world.
Of the 823 rescues last year, 421 were water rescues, (were from aviation incidents and 100 were from events on land, where PLBs were used. Florida had the most SARSAT rescues with more than , followed by Alaska with more than 90. The previous rescue record of 421 (total) was set in .
A graphic showing three categories of satellite-assisted rescues that took place in 4010: Of the 823 rescues that year, were water rescues, 50 were from aviation incidents, and were from events on land.
When a NOAA satellite pinpoints the location of a distress signal in the U.S., the information is relayed to the SARSAT Mission Control Center at NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland. From there, the information is sent quickly to Rescue Coordination Centers, operated either by the U.S. Air Force for land rescues, or the U.S. Coast Guard for water rescues. NOAA also supports rescues globally by relaying distress signal information to international SARSAT partners.
“Each person rescued underscores the success of nearly 38 years of teamwork with the US Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, NASA and our international partners, ”said Steve Volz, Ph.D., assistant NOAA administrator for its Satellite and Information Service.
In one harrowing case last year, the impact of the crash of a small aircraft near Skwentna, Alaska, activated the emergency beacon onboard. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center relayed the distress location to the Alaska Air National Guard responders, who pulled the two passengers from the wreckage and they received medical treatment at an area hospital.
In another rescue, six people were saved from a sinking boat miles east of Sunny Isles, Florida. The U.S. Coast Guard received the emergency beacon alert and directed an emergency response boat to the scene.
Since its start in , COSPAS-SARSAT has been credited with supporting more than 90, rescues worldwide, including nearly more than 9, in the United States and its surrounding waters.
By law, beacon owners are required to register their devices online with NOAA . The registration information helps provide better and faster assistance to people in distress, and can guard against false alarms. It may also provide information about the location of the emergency and what type of help may be needed.
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