U.S. Coast Guard not responding to analog distress calls after Feb 1

Posted by Rick C. Hodgin

Miami (FL) - The U.S. Coast Guard issued a press release yesterday stating that on February 1, 2009, they will no longer respond to distress calls sent with analog equipment. The move is similar to what's happening presently with the analog to digital TV switch, and one the Coast Guard believes "is vital to mariner, aviator safety."





The new equipment used by the Coast Guard will be unable to process signals on 121.5 MHz or 243.0 MHz - the current analog frequencies. They said in their statement yesterday that the switch to digital will provide a more stable and powerful signal that could improve response times. Here's how it will work:




The distress beacon is activated, transmitting a digital signal to satellites. Some units have GPS components, others do not. GPS units will include position data to within 300 feet. Non-GPS units will be accurate to within an 8 square nautical mile area. The digital signal is 50x stronger than analog signals. Once received, the appropriate local dispatching station is notified. The U.S. Coast Guard claims response times will be faster because of a more accurate fix on the person's position, and a more accurate dispatch of the appropriate personnel.





The Coast Guard advises mariners and aviators to upgrade their existing equipment to include the new 406 MHz distress frequency equipment, such as the EPIRB which, according to the press release, "may save your life" - and then register it online.




An EPIRB digital beacon device operating at 406 MHz. Once purchased, there's an online registration which activates the digital device.

See the U.S. Coast Guard's press release.


Opinion

This analog to digital thing is going too far. How many people are going to have analog equipment after February 1? And now they're just left out in the cold without emergency services? It seems like something less than right to me.