MIAMI — The National Safe Boating Council and ACR Electronics offered industry and media members a chance to witness a staged search-and-rescue attempt last Wednesday on Biscayne Bay off Miami.
People aboard the 130-foot yacht Caprice were able to watch the planned rescue unfold, from the man-overboard moment on the decks of the Caprice to the MOB pickup by Florida Fish and Wildlife.
ACR Artex marketing director Mikele D’Arcangelo said it was fascinating to watch government agencies take on the roles each has in a rescue and watch how all of the pieces come together as the agencies work together in an emergency situation.
A pre-selected “victim” slipped off the Caprice Wednesday evening, taking with him an ACR 406 EPIRB and ACR’s newest Aurora Flare. He set off the EPIRB immediately after entering the water. A bright orange Coast Guard rescue helicopter arrived and circled the area while Florida Fish and Wildlife and other boats approached the person by water.
“Onboard [the Caprice] it was interesting to see how quickly NOAA receives the signal and watch the different agencies ‘talk’ to each other,” D’Arcangelo said.
NOAA contacts the Coast Guard and, in this case, Florida Fish and Wildlife and asks whether they have any boats near the GPS coordinates of the signal, he said.
NOAA and the Coast Guard determined that the person had no life-threatening injuries and a decision was made to pick him up by boat.
When an EPIRB signal goes off, NOAA can receive the signal in as little as 30 to 40 seconds, D’Arcangelo said — two minutes, tops. NOAA then takes three to four minutes to sort the signal — check the contacts, extract any background information available to them — and contact the Coast Guard or the emergency agency responsible in the area of the signal.
“It’s a coordinated dance of agencies,” he said.
“We haven’t done a live event for 14 or 15 years,” D’Arcangelo said. “When you see the boats coming [to the rescue] and see the helicopter arrive on the scene, it’s pretty unique.”
The Wednesday event was the official launch of the NSBC’s new boating safety campaign, which is aimed at helping recreational boaters understand the importance of 406 emergency locator beacons and how to use the beacons in the case of an emergency.
“What better time than the Miami boat show to introduce such an important boating safety message,” NSBC executive director Rachel Johnson said.
She said the NSBC wanted its Saved by the Beacon message to be distributed to people who are positioned to influence a large number of recreational boaters during the on-water event. According to NSBC, more than 500 lives are lost each year during recreational boating accidents.
The new NSBC campaign aims to educate boaters about the difference between EPIRBs and PLBs designed for life jackets. The campaign also compares the benefits of beacons to marine communication equipment such as VHF radios, GPS trackers and cellphones.
ACR introduced two new Coast Guard-approved distress flares at the Miami boat show — the Aurora Red Hand flare and the Orange Hand smoke signal.
“Nobody buys our products intending to use them,” said Gerry Angeli, ACR Artex president and general manager. “But everyone who buys our products knows if they need them, they will work.”
Located in Fort Lauderdale, ACR Artex has been manufacturing safety and survival equipment since the 1950s. An ACR camera used aboard an Air Force Atlas missile in 1959 now sits in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
ACR lights, emergency locators and survival kits have been used by NASA, by pilots in Vietnam and by aircraft manufacturers and boaters around the world.
ACR’s SurvivorClub, which is for people who have been rescued after using a 406 EPIRB, a personal locator beacon or an ARTEX emergency locator transmitter, has more than 100 members.