NOAA satellites helped save 253 people last year

Jan 20, 2014
NOAA satellites helped save 253 people last year
SARSAT U.S. Rescues - 2013. Credit:NOAA

The same NOAA satellites that helped forecasters predict severe weather, such as the Moore, Okla., tornado last May and November's deadly Midwest tornado outbreak, also played a key role in rescuing 253 people from potentially life-threatening scenarios throughout the United States and its surrounding waters last year.

A combination of NOAA polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites detected distress signals from emergency beacons carried by downed pilots, shipwrecked boaters and stranded hikers and relayed information about their location to first responders on the ground.

NOAA satellites are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System, called COSPAS-SARSAT. This system uses a network of satellites to quickly detect and locate distress signals from emergency beacons onboard aircraft and boats, and from smaller, handheld personal locator beacons called PLBs.

Of the 253 rescues, 139 were waterborne rescues, 34 were from aviation incidents and 80 were from events on land, where PLBs were used. Other rescue highlights from last year include:

  • Alaska had the most SARSAT rescues, with 101, followed by Florida, with 56;
  • In Alaska, six passengers on a small plane were rescued after it crashed near mountainous terrain outside of Le Conte Bay, Alaska;
  • Four crewmen, ejected from a B-1 bomber before it crashed, were rescued in Broadus, Mont.; and
  • A boater was rescued off the coast of Kitty Hawk, N.C., after he sustained a head injury.

"Each life we save underscores the undeniable value of NOAA satellites," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service.

When a NOAA satellite finds the location of a distress signal, the information is relayed to the SARSAT Mission Control Center based at NOAA's Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md. From there, the information is quickly sent to a Rescue Coordination Center, operated by either the U.S. Air Force for land rescues or the U.S. Coast Guard for water rescues.

Since 1982, COSPAS-SARSAT has been credited with supporting more than 35,000 rescues worldwide, including more than 7,250 in the United States and its surrounding waters.

By law, owners of emergency beacons are required to register them with NOAA at: http://www.beaconregistration..gov . That registration information often helps provide better and faster assistance to people in distress. It may also provide information about the location of the emergency, how many people need assistance, what type of help may be needed and other ways to contact the owner. At the end of 2013, NOAA's registration database contained more than 400,000 registrations.

Explore further: How Virginia is preparing for the next quake

More information: For more information about NOAA SARSAT, visit: www.sarsat.noaa.gov
Additional information about NOAA's Satellite and Information Service can be found at: www.nesdis.noaa.gov

Related Stories

NOAA satellites: Helping save lives for 30 years

Oct 10, 2012

Thirty years ago, about 300 miles off the coast of New England, a barrage of towering, 25-foot waves battered a catamaran sailboat, causing it to begin sinking. A satellite, orbiting in space, detected the ...

NASA, NOAA set to launch NOAA-N Prime satellite

Jan 22, 2009

NASA is preparing to launch NOAA'S latest polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite, called NOAA-N Prime, providing an essential resource for NOAA's weather forecasts and improving the U.S. search ...

NASA develops enhanced search and rescue technologies

May 24, 2010

NASA, which pioneered the technology used for the satellite-aided search and rescue capability that has saved more than 27,000 lives worldwide since its inception nearly three decades ago, has developed new technology that ...

Taking the 'search' out of search and rescue

Sep 03, 2010

Their emergencies happened hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from one another, but the captain whose vessel had become disabled near Kamalino, Hawaii, the pilot who crashed onto the Knik Glacier near Anchorage, ...

Galileo to support global search and rescue

Aug 09, 2007

The detection of emergency beacons will be greatly improved by the introduction of Europe's satellite positioning system, Galileo. The Galileo satellites will carry transponders to relay distress signals to ...

Recommended for you

Experiments open window on landscape formation

24 minutes ago

University of Oregon geologists have seen ridges and valleys form in real time and—even though the work was a fast-forwarded operation done in a laboratory setting—they now have an idea of how climate ...

NASA image: Canadian wildfires continue

31 minutes ago

Canada is reeling from an early fire season this year as dozens of fires ravage at least three provinces of the country. All of the following reports are as of July 2, 2015.

The very hungry sea anemone

1 hour ago

The surprising culinary preferences of an abyssal sea anemone have been unveiled by a team of scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

How Virginia is preparing for the next quake

6 hours ago

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the commonwealth in 2011 was a wake-up call for many Virginians. Originating deep under Louisa County, the quake was felt as far north as Canada and caused significant ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.