The Puget Sound will be one of the first recipients of the Rescue 21 system, a modernization of the National Distress and Response System.
Seattle and Port Angeles will be two of the primary areas, nation-wide, to receive the new system, which is scheduled to be the nation’s primary maritime “911” system for waterways within the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico, by September 2006.
“This new system will enhance maritime safety by helping to minimize the time that search-and-rescue teams spend looking for people in distress,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta.
Rescue 21 will also assist the Coast Guard in enforcing laws, preventing terrorism and security threats, and reducing the damage threatening the marine environment. This will be accomplished by:
* Filling in coverage gaps in the current VHS-FM system.
* Increasing the channel capacity, which allows for simultaneous communications on six channels (including VHF 16). Using the current system, a distress call can be “stepped on” by a stronger signal, making the distress call unheard.
* Having Digital Selective Calling capability that will instantly transmit a vessel’s name, exact location, nature of distress and other vital information when used in conjunction with an integrated Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and properly registered Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number.
* Digitally recording communications for instant playback.
* Allowing for interoperability with other federal, state, and local agency communication systems.
“Rescue 21 represents a quantum leap forward in coastal command and control distress communications,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thomas H. Collins. “It will enhance our homeland security capabilities
as well as other safety and security missions bringing tremendous benefits to the Coast Guard and the American public.”
General Dynamics of Scottsdale, AZ., was awarded the $611 million contract for the production, deployment and support of the “Rescue 21” system.