PORTSMOUTH, Va. — In 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard responded to over 700 false alerts.

The Coast Guard is now urging anyone with an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) to properly register their device. An EPIRB is a device that transmits a distress signal to a satellite system then a signal is relayed to a network, and ultimately to the Coast Guard and other emergency responders.

Owners of commercial fishing vessels, uninspected passenger vessels that carry six or more people, and uninspected commercial vessels are legally required to carry an EPIRB. However, the Coast Guard recommends that every mariner who transits offshore or on long voyages should carry an EPIRB.

If an unregistered beacon is activated, the FCC can prosecute the owner based on evidence provided by the Coast Guard. Warning letters or notices of apparent liability for fines up to $10,000.

Coast Guard personnel were only able to contact 163 of the more than 700 EPIRB owners to find out the cause of the false alerts. The other individuals had not registered their beacons, not updated their registration information, or had disposed of them improperly.