New Coast Guard radio system taking the ‘search’ out of ‘search and rescue’

PORT ANGELES – Two seconds doesn’t seem like enough time to accomplish much. But in the time it takes to say “mayday, mayday” into a marine radio, a new multi-million dollar rescue communication system used by the Coast Guard can pinpoint the location of the call, over land or sea.

The Rescue 21 system, named because it takes the “search” out of “search and rescue,” began combing the airwaves of the Washington coast in December.

Designed and built by General Dynamics for $730 million, the system is standing watch along 2,000 nautical miles of coastline, the Coast Guard reported.

Once fully implemented in 2011, the system will cover 95,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways.

The command, control and communication system allows the Coast Guard to pinpoint the origin of calls.

That greatly reduces search time.

There are 10 towers in the Port Angeles and Seattle area, and the new system has portable towers for use in areas devastated by storms or earthquakes.

The system also allows mariners to set up their radios to operate as “panic buttons,” immediately transmitting vital information about their boat and location when calling in an emergency.

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