As the official lobster season begins, the Coast Guard is issuing a warning to South Florida boaters: use flares in case of emergencies only.
The warning comes after a series of false alarms have cost the Coast Guard thousands of taxpayer dollars.
Since Friday, the Guard said, there have been five instances involving flares that have been answered by the Coast Guard's Seventh District; none required the massive response.
In one case, a C-130 aircraft and small boat search crew were used at the whopping cost of more than $43,000.
“Flares are lifesaving visual signaling devices that can be used day or night to alert emergency responders and fellow boaters to an emergency,” the Coast Guard said in the release. But “the improper use of flares can divert valuable search assets from an actual distress case and place rescuers unnecessarily in harm's way while responding to the false alarm.”
The Coast Guard detailed the staggering costs of operating its high-tech equipment:
• An H-65 Dolphin helicopter costs $11,061 per hour.
• An H-60 Jayhawk costs $14,318 per hour.
• An HC-130 Hercules aircraft is $17,866 per hour.
• And an HC-144 Ocean Sentry Aircraft coast $15,354 per hour.
An individual who knowingly and willfully communicates a false distress message to the Coast Guard, when no help is needed, is guilty of a class felony and is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000, and liable for all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the individual’s action.
For more information on boating safety and required and recommended safety equipment, please visit www.uscgboating.org.