FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) —The NOAA satellites play a major role in weather but they also had a hand in rescuing 304 people from potentially life-threatening situations in 2020.
In a release Thursday, NOAA says of the 304 U.S. rescues last year, 217 of them were water rescues, 12 were aviation incidents and 75 were from events on land.
Florida had the most Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) rescues with 67, followed by Alaska with 29.
The record for the most SARSAT U.S. rescues in one year was 421 set in 2019.
According to the release, COSPAS-SARSAT uses a network of U.S. and international spacecrafts to detect and locate distress signals sent from emergency beacons.
The distress calls could be from aircrafts, boats or even handheld Personal Locator Beacons or PLBs anywhere in the world.
When a NOAA satellite pinpoints the location of a distress signal in the U.S, the information is relayed to SARSAT Mission Control Center and NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility in Maryland.
From there, the information is sent quickly to Rescue Coordination Centers that are either operated by the U.S. Air Force (land rescue) or the U.S. Coast Guard (water rescue).
NOAA will also relay a distress signal to international SARSAT partners.
In the release, NOAA documented a harrowing case in 2020.
About 60 miles northwest of Clearwater, Florida, four people were rescued from a sinking boat impacted by Tropical Storm Sally.
The Coast Guard received the alert details from an onboard PBL.
Since water conditions were hazardous, the Coast Guard diverted a container ship to rescue the sailors.
Beacon owners are required by law to register their PBL devices with NOAA.
#Satellite administrations with the assistance of geostationary #satellites for sending and getting signals, where the scope of shore stations can't reach (given by #INMARSAT and #COSPAS – #SARSAT)
Read more about #Marine / #Maritime #Communication ��https://t.co/cST5w9RPd3 pic.twitter.com/tuYT022C0W
— Marine Digital (@MarineDigital1) October 20, 2020
According to NOAA, the registration information helps provide better and faster assistance to people in distress and it reduces false alarms.
Since the beginning of COSPAS-SARSAT in 1982, there have been more than 48,000 rescues worldwide including 9,400 in the United States and its surrounding waters.