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Boaters Must Switch to Digital Beacons

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Aired 4/19/09

Televisions aren’t the only technology making the switch to digital. Beginning February first, the emergency beacons used by boaters must be digital as well. US Coastguard spokesman Henry Dunphy says the analog signals won’t be detected after the switch. He says the older signals weren’t as efficient during rescues.

Dunphy: Because of the way the satellites work, it could take up to an hour and a half for, let’s say, the Coastguard or the Navy to figure out exactly where this person was in trouble. With the new digital beacons, it can take, you can get an exact location in as little as five minutes.

Dunphy says the digital signals can also be programmed with a boater’s name and contact information. An international group that operates a satellite system for search and rescue operations mandated the switch.

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