Coast Guard warns of consequences for hoaxes


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The U.S. Coast Guard says the number of false distress calls on the Great Lakes has tripled so far this year over last.

So far this year, the Coast Guard has gotten more than 160 false distress calls. During the same time period last year, it got 55.

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The problem is that emergency responders have to treat each distress call as legitimate.

“False distress and hoax calls expose not only Coast Guard rescuers, but our partner agencies and other mariners to unnecessary risks, and potentially take away personnel and resources from real emergencies,” Capt. Joseph McGilley, chief of incident management for the Coast Guard District that covers the Great Lakes, said in a statement on Thursday.

The Coast Guard reminded that if you get caught making a false distress call on purpose, you could be sentenced to up to six years in prison and $255,000 in fines and penalties. You may also have to cover the costs of the unnecessary emergency response, and that’s something: it costs $4,500 per hour to launch a Coast Guard response boat and up to $16,000 per hour for a helicopter.

Anyone who accidentally makes a false distress call during a radio check is asked to call the Ninth Unit District Command Center at 216.902.6117 to call off emergency teams.