On August 19, the U.S. Coast Guard officially accepted the installation of the Rescue 21 search-and-rescue system that will provide enhanced life-saving communications capabilities to the entire Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, reaching as far as Washington, D.C. Rescue 21 enables the Coast Guard to quickly respond to and assist distressed mariners, saving lives and property. It also provides a wireless communications network that the Coast Guard can use to communicate with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and other emergency first responders.
The new system command center is located at the Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard on Hawkins Point in Baltimore, Maryland, as part of the Coast Guard's Sector Baltimore command. General Dynamics C4 Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) , is the prime contractor for Rescue 21.
"Working closely with the Coast Guard, we are deploying a national system that addresses the urgent communication challenges facing those who are called to duty during a crisis. This is what we do best," said John Weidman, vice president of National Systems for General Dynamics C4 Systems.
Rescue 21 is a command, control and communications system used to monitor distress calls from boats at sea and to coordinate the search-and-rescue response. The system comprises a network of VHF-FM antennae with analog transceivers. Advanced direction-finding technology detects and locates distress calls to within 1.5 miles. The system also provides unprecedented voice clarity, records emergency calls and detects hoax calls, avoiding unnecessary tasking of rescue personnel and resources.
In addition to search and rescue, Rescue 21's command and control capabilities can be electronically relocated to another operating sector if weather or other factors affect normal operations.
Currently covering more than 35,000 miles of United States coastline, Rescue 21 towers and command centers are operating at Coast Guard sectors along the East and Gulf coasts and portions of the West coast. All 34 Rescue 21 regions are scheduled for completion in 2012. When fully operational, the system will cover 42,000 nautical miles of coastline. The first life saved using Rescue 21 was in New Jersey in November 2005.
Rescue 21 is the first post-9/11 national wireless network for first responders. In a similar effort, the Department of Justice also selected General Dynamics to implement wireless communications services to federal law enforcement agency personnel as part of the Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) program. IWN will provide secure, interoperable wireless voice communications that support federal law enforcement missions and first responder operations. The network will provide federal agency interoperability with appropriate links to state, local and tribal public safety and homeland security entities.