Best-Case SAR Scenario
Get an overview of the best-case search and rescue scenario after you activate an EPIRB.
1. 0000-0020: Activate COSPAS-SARSAT System
• East of Africa, the EPIRB aboard Misadventure begins transmitting the 15 hexadecimal ID number while its GPS searches the satellites to get a fix.
• GEOSAR satellites MSG-2 and INSAT-3A pick up the distress signal and transmit it to seven LUTs in seven countries, including India and the United Kingdom.
• LUTs pass the transmission on to MCCs worldwide, including USMCC, in the United States, and ASMCC, in South Africa.
• ASMCC issues an alert message to the RCC in Cape Town, MRCC Cape Town, and to USMCC.
2. 0000-0020: Fix Vessel Position
• The GPS gets a fix. The EPIRB begins transmitting position information that automatically passes to all parties through the COSPAS-SARSAT System.
3. 0020-0100: Verify emergency signal
• USMCC forwards the alert to the U.S. Coast Guard LANTAREA RCC.
• LANTAREA RCC accesses the beacon registration and obtains the owner’s emergency-contact information.
• LANTAREA RCC contacts the listed person, who confirms the vessel with two aboard was located 300 nautical miles southwest of Madagascar eight hours earlier.
• LANTAREA RCC contacts ASMCC and verifies the emergency signal.
4. 0100-0300: Determine jurisdiction and available SAR assets
• Misadventure lies at the intersection of four rescue areas: South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Réunion; ASMCC contacts RCCs in each country and negotiates jurisdiction.
• Since no other country involved has SAR assets that can be deployed, MRCC Cape Town takes the lead in rescue coordination.
5. 0300-0500: Evaluate Rescue Options
• MRCC Cape Town alerts commercial shipping through the AMVER system and contacts the South African military to find out if air assets can reach the distressed vessel.
• South African C-130s can be available at first light for SAR. Given the location, 450 nautical miles off the South Africa coast, at the very limit of a C-130’s range, air assets will only be used if no ships are available.
• Contact is established with two ships, m/v Too Far, with an ETA of 24 hours, and m/v Safe Haven, with an ETA of 12 hours.
6. 0500-1700: Deploy SAR assets
• Safe Haven asked to respond while Too Far stands by.
• Safe Haven steams toward Misadventure’s last known position; Safe Haven’s ETA is 1700.
• MRCC Cape Town remains in contact with all parties and regularly updates the position and situation.
7. 1700-2000: Make contact with distressed vessel
• Safe Haven reaches Misadventure’s reported position but can’t make visual contact with the vessel. Misadventure, although less than a mile away, is dismasted and awash and all but invisible.
• Safe Haven begins square search while broadcasting on VHF Channel 16. Safe Haven makes contact as darkness falls.
• Misadventure’s crew transfers to Safe Haven in a life raft. Misadventure is scuttled.
Read more about activating an EPIRB from Beth A. Leonard, and find online resources, including a complete glossary of SAR terms, here.