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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 5, 2024

406 Day 2024: Celebrating over 50,000 lives saved

By Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue

Each year, the Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force, and other government agencies rescue thousands of people in distress, including recreational boaters and commercial mariners, hikers, and pilots. Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs), and ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitters), along with U.S. and international satellite constellations, all work together to make the Cospas-SARSAT one of the world’s most reliable distress notification systems. 

As we celebrate SARSAT 406 Day, we reflect on both the lifesaving technology and vital role of those in the search and rescue community who selflessly dedicate themselves to saving lives. Every rescue made possible by SARSAT is a testament to their collaborative efforts and unwavering commitment to serving our communities. 

What is the most critical element of the U.S. SARSAT System? 

Rescue Coordination Center watchstanders and Search and Rescue professionals. Hundreds of trained personnel from the U.S. Mission Control Center in Suitland, MD, and each U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center across the U.S., to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, are the key to ensuring people in distress receive the help they desperately need. These watchstanders, alongside SAR Mission Coordinators and the entire SAR Chain of Command, provide lifesaving information to highly capable responders at sea, in the air, and on land. 

What does the Future hold? 

The Coast Guard, NASA, NOAA Space Force, and the Air Force are actively working with the international Cospas-SARSAT Programme to improve and modernize the System, to include commissioning of Mid-Earth Orbiting SAR satellite (MEOSAR) capability, testing and approval of Second Generation Beacons, and eventual Two-Way communications. These improvements will allow responders to take the “Search” out of “Search and Rescue”, so that others may live.