Rescue 21 gives boaters an extra lifejacket

Officially called the National Distress and Response System Modernization Project, Rescue 21 is the equivalent of a 911 emergency system for boaters.

The project is intended to improve the Coast Guard's ability to detect mayday calls, pinpoint the location of the calls and coordinate rescue operations.

The system will cover 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline and interior waterways, including the Great Lakes and other major interior waterways. It requires improvements to be made at approximately 270 Coast Guard facilities, installing new communications equipment on 657 Coast Guard vessels, providing 3,000 portable radio, and improving or building more than 300 radio towers.

The contract has an estimated value of $611 million for six years, and has two four-year options and one five-year option. Work on the program could last almost 20 years.

The first milestone for Rescue 21 is qualification testing, to be conducted at a General Dynamics facility where the company will build a mock-up of the entire system and demonstrate its capabilities, said Ellen Murray, the Coast Guard contracting officer on the program. That is scheduled for May 2003.

The next major milestone is installation and system integration testing at two East Coast sites, then another four sites around the country, slated to get under way in September 2003.

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