Rear Adm. Brice-O'Hara testifies on USCG SAR

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations is scheduled to testify during a House of Representatives Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee hearing on Coast Guard search and rescue, Wednesday, 10 a.m., House Rayburn building room 2167, here.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., will hear testimony from Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, detailing the Coast Guard’s efforts on search and rescue.

The Coast Guard, as the federal agency responsible for maritime search and rescue operations, saved more than 4,000 lives while responding to more than 24,000 search and rescue cases in 2008.

At the heart of search and rescue are the Coast Guard’s search and rescue controllers, trained by the Coast Guard’s National Search and Rescue School. For 43 years the school has provided training designed to help reduce the time spent searching for those in distress by aggressively pursuing leads and obtaining all information available. By reducing search times and search areas, the Coast Guard can save more lives, more efficiently use Coast Guard resources and place fewer Coast Guard personnel at risk.

Only about 10 percent of search and rescue cases involve actual searches for people in distress, with about eight percent of those searches spanning less than 24 hours and about two percent lasting more than 24 hours.
Given the great difficulties inherent in finding people missing at sea due to variations in wind and seas and the vast areas that need to be searched, the Coast Guard continues to acquire new technologies to more rapidly locate persons in distress at sea. These technologies include the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System, self-locating datum marker buoys, Rescue 21, 406 MHz direction finders on Coast Guard aircraft and high-powered infrared and optical camera systems for vessels and aircraft. Even with advances in technology there is no substitute for boater education, vessel examinations and inspections, proper safety equipment and training when it comes to reducing the severity of maritime accidents.

“The SAR system is reactive in nature – we activate the system based on information received at a specific point in time and respond accordingly,” said Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations. “However, the success of the search and rescue mission relies heavily on mariners doing their part to ensure they are prepared to survive an accident at sea. When mariners are prepared and can sustain themselves until help arrives, our job of rescuing gets much easier, and the mariner’s probability of survival increases considerably. There are many prevention programs that by their very nature support the SAR mission. We would not be as successful in the arena of SAR without the efforts of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program, Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety program, and those members who are involved in marine safety regulatory and standardization efforts. These programs play a crucial role in ensuring mariners are properly equipped and trained to respond to emergencies in the maritime environment.”

For updates from her testimony, follow, #USCGSAR.

The USCG Commandant’s blog has links to the full testimony, including the video and written transcript. It’s an interesting read.

You can find it all HERE.