Reading books about the Coast Guard is one of my off-duty pastimes. Two of my favorites so far are about past search cases – Dead Men Tapping: The End of the Heather Lynn II by Kate Yeomans and Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do by Michael Tougias. I am also in the midst of reading the recently released Rescue Warriors by David Helvarg about various Coast Guard missions.
These books – and a recent case – will tell you that not every Coast Guard search case is perfect. Each one does, however, provide a real, unique opportunity to learn and inform the SAR system. For me, the books are an opportunity to hear a different perspective on the Coast Guard; one outside the internal process and chain of command. I glean insight into different points of view from the public, family, legal, media, supporter and opposer perspectives. Now, I am not saying I agree with the books or that their conclusions are always valid but that I personally find them valuable and enlightening to my Coast Guard career.
Coast Guard SAR Controllers go through significant and challenging training including National Search and Rescue School, practical qualification procedures, area of responsibility familiarization, oral qualification board, regular standardization testing, and more. But, the bottom line is that they are humans doing the best they can, often with limited information, in a vast and perilous environment. I can assure you that every Guardian is intent on saving lives.
Mariners themselves also play a significant role in the SAR process. They can help take the search out of search and rescue by planning and preparing for potential emergency situations. I know we preach boating safety all the time but reality is that rescuers will not likely be right there when you need them.
Consider these points when out boating:
- Where are you are in relation to rescue resources?
- How will rescuers know where you are and if you are in danger?
- Do you have the right resources to keep yourself and others safe until rescuers arrive?
Although Coast Guard SAR resources are manned and ready to launch all hours of each day, there are some things you can do to help responders help you in an emergency:
- Carry a VHF marine band radio in a waterproof, buoyant bag
- Carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)
- Wear a life jacket
- Get a free vessel safety check
- File a float plan with a trusted family member or friend who can notify authorities if you do not return as planned
- Take boating safety courses
For more boating safety information, go to www.uscgboating.org.
Do you have any favorite Coast Guard books? Have they taught you a few things about the service? If so, I’d love to hear from you.