- Lifesaving & Fire Safety

Coast Guard R&D releases studies examining daytime distress signals and enhanced person-in-the water detection

Submitted by the Coast Guard Office of Design and Engineering Standards

The Coast Guard has publicly released two studies completed by the Coast Guard’s Research & Development Center as related to Enhanced Person in the Water (ePIW) Detection location devices and daytime distress signal devices. The studies recommend to increase public awareness that generally accepted distress signals when used in combination, both electronic and visual, may yield more reliable results than any one signal. The recommendations from these studies have not yet affected current regulations or requirements for any vessel. While the studies did not support incorporation of any new distress signals for use by mariners, the Coast Guard is always looking at new technologies for use in search and rescue situations. 

The ePIW project highlighted the persistent challenge of the Search and Rescue mission to find a person floating in open water, waiting for rescue. Ideas for enhancements to existing basic lifejackets that could improve detection were crowd-sourced and then filtered down to a few for development of a prototype for an on-the-water demonstration. The field demonstration showed interesting ideas, but none are currently USCG Approved equipment. In cooperation with DHS S&T Innovation, this research supported developing new technology which could be brought to market at a later time.

The Daytime Distress Signals project compared several currently accepted daytime distress signals, including smoke, distress flag, and the 500 candela flare, with an electronic visual distress signal currently accepted as meeting the recreational vessel carriage requirement for a nighttime distress signal. These tests did not result in recommendations to propose any changes to current regulations for distress signal carriage requirements at this time. The study recommended to increase public awareness that generally accepted distress signals when used in combination, both electronic and visual, may yield more reliable results than any one signal. Using a visual distress signal in conjunction with electronic devices can greatly enhance a rescuer’s ability to get “eyes on the target” for a final approach.

The reports are available on the Coast Guard Office of Design and Engineering Standards, Lifesaving and Fire Safety Division (CG-ENG-4) website.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official publications, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These publications remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.