The Coast Guard wants you to know…
The Sooner you call us, the safer you’ll be…

By Wayne Spivak
National Press Corps
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

Helicopter, Cutter Crews Continue Search for Missing Man, Dog U. S. Coast Guard - January 23, 2004

JUNEAU, Alaska -- This search for a missing Portland, Ore., man, who now resides in Alaska continues at this hour in Southeast Alaska.

Thus began this press release issued by the 17th Coast Guard District, in Alaska. What’s unfortunate, not only for this man and his dog, is that this type of incident is way to common, whether near Alaska or the Baja, the Florida Panhandle or Long Island Sound.

What incident you may ask? In this case, it was engine trouble, in other cases it could be grounding or hull breach or even swamping. But the real incident is the lack of prompt contact with the Coast Guard.

"Anytime mariners feel they may be in a dangerous situation, we highly recommend they immediately contact the Coast Guard to make us aware of the problem regardless of how severe it may appear," said Cmdr. Mike Kendall, 17th Coast Guard District Chief of Search and Rescue.

Speed of response is of the essence, when it comes to any type of rescue. Examples can be drawn from fire services and emergency medical services world-wide, that the sooner they are notified, the faster they can respond. How many times have we read reports of fires that spread with unbelievable speed, just before the fire department arrived, only to find that the call to the fire department was delayed.

For cardiac arrest victims, the window of opportunity is small, only 4 to 6 minutes and once gone, so is the victims life. R Adams Cowley, MD, the creator and founder of the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland, based this unique medical concept on “the Golden Hour”. Based on his experiences in Vietnam, as well as his research in the states, Dr Crowley discovered that if you are a victim of trauma, and you are treated within an hour of your injuries, your chances of both recovery and survival increase dramatically.

The same holds true for Search and Rescue. A search can not be started if the system has not been activated. The faster the system is activated the faster the responding agencies (Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary) can bring to bear the assets necessary to reach the scene and begin the rescue phase. However, if you don’t notify the Coast Guard that you are in a “situation”, they will not be able to monitor your progress, pre-position assets in case your situation deteriorates and ultimately engage these assets to effect a search and rescue.

On January 23rd, at 12:23 pm, the Coast Guard was notified, hours after the missing man had contacted a nearby fishing boat. Two helicopters were dispatched, and at 12:54 located a debris field. The second helicopter crew arrived on scene and located a survival suit bag and a rolled up survival suit. They also located a life ring amidst a major debris field. At 4 p.m., in six-foot seas with 15-knot winds, the rescuers located a 10-foot section of a boat's stern.

On January 26th, after searching for approximately three days, the Coast Guard suspended their search for the man and his dog, around noon-time. The Coast Guard had assets on scene within thirty minutes of the notification of a distress.

However, if they had been notified earlier, at the on-set of the problems, maybe this scenario would have been: “The Coast Guard today rescued a man and his dog, after their vessel…..”

For more information about the Coast Guard or Coast Guard Auxiliary contact you local United States Coast Guard unit.