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Beacon Awareness Day 2018

6 Apr 2018, 5:00 am

Did you know that NOAA weather satellites are not just used by meteorologists to forecast the weather?  They can actually help save your life when the weather is threatening whether it’s in the sky, on land, or at sea!

Friday is 406 Day, a national campaign put on by NOAA, which helps raise awareness about the importance of life-saving emergency beacons and how NOAA satellites aid in rescue missions.

The Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System (SARSAT) uses geostationary and low-earth satellites to quickly search for and find 406 MHz distress signals from emergency beacons that are located on aircrafts, boats and from handheld personal locator beacons (PLBs).

These beacons send off a signal that is picked up by a satellite and then sent to a rescue coordination center such as the United Sates Coast Guard or the United States Air Force.

The United States Mission Control Center serves as the focal point of U.S. Cospas-Sarsat alert data. The USMCC matches beacon signals to identify those coming from the same source and merges them to improve position accuracy. Registration information is then appended to the 406 MHz beacon distress alerts that are registered in the U.S. The location of the alert is geographically sorted and the data is distributed to the appropriate recipient (Rescue Coordination Center (RCC), foreign SPOC or other MCC). Photo Credit: Pamela Wright

The NOAA SARSAT system saved the life of Jordan Hanssen from OAR Northwest and his crew in 2013, who were stranded at sea for hours after their boat capsized.

“We were found in hours,” Hanssen said.  “And because we were found in hours we could be plucked out in a few hours more.   I didn’t walk, swim, float away from this experience with any trauma because this system worked so fast.  I didn’t have time too.”

Photo Credit: Erinn J. Hale for OAR Northwest


Friday’s awareness day is a time for any survivors, who used a 406 MHz beacon, to celebrate their second chance at life and thank the Search and Rescue team that responded to their emergency call.

LTJG Marybeth Head, NOAA Corps, Vessel Operations Coordinator at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary conducting training with United States Coast Guard Air Station Savannah. All NOAA ships and aircraft operated by NOAA Corps Officers carry 406 MHz beacons. Photo Credit: Kimberly Roberson

If you are a beacon owner, NOAA encourages you to make sure the information in the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database is the most up-to-date and conduct self-tests of you devices, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you are on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, share your survival story or personal experience with SARSAT using #406DAY18.

For WeatherNation, I’m Meteorologist Meredith Garofalo