Coast Guard command centers in North Carolina said they have experienced an increase in suspected hoax distress calls in November.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector North Carolina in Wilmington have noticed a spike in the amount of traffic on VHF-FM channel 16 during the late fall, as well as an increase in suspected false distress cases reported on the channel.
“False distress calls incur significant cost to the public, divert limited resources to respond, and place both responders and potentially other mariners at risk,” said Capt. Bion Stewart, commander, Sector North Carolina. “We continue to encourage mariners to use VHF radios to communicate with the Coast Guard and other mariners, but it is imperative that this critical, potentially life-saving tool be used appropriately and responsibly for the safety of all mariners.”
The public should be aware that if children are found to be playing on the radio, the parents are ultimately accountable.
Hoax distress calls to the Coast Guard are considered a Class D felony and can incur more than $250,000 in fines and 10 years imprisonment, plus the cost of the search.