NOAA Search and Rescue System Saves 253 People Throughout U.S. in 2013

NOAA Search and Rescue System Saves 253 People Throughout U.S. in 2013

NOAA weather satellites, in addition to providing weather data, carry transponders as part of the international Cospas-Sarsat search and rescue system to locate people in distress.   In 2013, 253 people throughout the United States and in surrounding waters were rescued.

NOAA reports that 139 people were rescued from marine emergencies, 34 from aviation incidents, and 80 from land-based events.

Cospas-Sarsat started as a joint effort among the Soviet Union, United States, France and Canada in the 1980s, using transponders on polar-orbiting spacecraft (U.S. weather satellites and Soviet navigation satellites).  Today, it involves 41 countries and two independent organizations.  Since 1982, more than 35,000 people worldwide have been rescued using the system, of which 7.252 were in the United States.

Aircraft, marine vessels and individuals can be equipped with devices that broadcast an emergency signal when activated manually or, in some cases, automatically.  The signal is detected by polar orbiting satellites equipped with Cospas-Sarsat transponders that alert control centers in various countries.  NOAA operates the control center for the United States in Suitland, MD.

Cospas is the Russian acronym for Space System for Search of Vessels in Distress.  Sarsat is the English acronym for Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking.  More information is on NOAA’s Cospas-Sarsat website.

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