AEA Pilot's Guide 2019-2020 - 72

PILOT'S GUIDE

406 MHz distress
beacons false alerts
R i s k i n g t h e l i v e s o f o u r re s p o n d e r s
BY LT. AARON D. COLOHAN,
NOAA CORPS - OPERATIONS OFFICER COSPAS-SARSAT

I

t is 0000 EDT at the United States Mission C ontrol
C enter in Suitland, Maryland, when a N ational Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration satellite detects a 4 06
MHz distress beacon. The distress beacon indicates that
there is an emergency locator transmitter activation from an
airplane located in N evada. Search and rescue forces need
to mobilize to save a life.
e iatel the
notifies the . . ir Force
Rescue C oordination C enter, and its team sets in motion the
processes used to save lives. They reach out to state and
local search and rescue teams and notify them of a distress
in their region. In turn, they notify the men and women
ho con ct the resc e. hile this is happenin
F
controllers are investigating the registration of the distress
beacon, looking for contact information and trying to get
clarifying data. Someone's life is on the line, and the personnel working with the SARSAT system are determined. Every
detected distress beacon is a lifesaving scenario.
Except it is not. N ot this time.
This time, SAR forces arrive on the scene to a hangar at
a local airport in N evada. The plane is safe in the hangar;
the istress beacon as ina ertentl set off rin ro tine
testing. The registration information was not up to date, so

there as no one to call to fin o t that the plane an its
possible passengers were safe. There was no one to tell
first respon ers to stan o n eepin the ro ris in
their lives. It was a false alert/ non-distress activation, and it
is something that happens more often than not when a 4 06
MHz distress beacon is detected.
In short, false alerts risk lives. They risk the lives of the
responders; they risk the lives of other possible victims;
they risk the materials used to conduct search and
rescue; they are an unnecessary and avoidable strain on
SAR responders.
False Alerts
With well over 610,000-registered distress beacons in
the United States and thousands more unregistered, it is
inevitable that false alerts and non-distress activations will
occ r. The oal in the
T co
nit is to si nificantl
lower that number so that false alerts are no longer the norm
but represent a far lower percentage of total distress alerts
detected by the SARSAT system. The SARSAT system
treats every distress beacon as an actual event, forwarding
that distress alert to the search and rescue responders. This
is to ensure that a timely response is coordinated if there is

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AEA Pilot's Guide 2019-2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AEA Pilot's Guide 2019-2020

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AEA Pilot's Guide 2019-2020 - Intro
AEA Pilot's Guide 2019-2020 - No label
AEA Pilot's Guide 2019-2020 - Cover2
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AEA Pilot's Guide 2019-2020 - Cover3
AEA Pilot's Guide 2019-2020 - Cover4
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