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fcclogo NEWS

Federal Communications Commission
1919 - M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

March 22, 1999
  News Media Contact: David Fiske or
Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0500



The FCC said today that its Compliance and Information Bureau responded to over 1,200 calls during the past year from local, state, and federal public safety and emergency officials seeking assistance on radio frequency problems, many involved with life-threatening emergency situations.

The Compliance and Information Bureau provides around the clock assistance to public safety and emergency organizations that are experiencing communications problems. The bureau will alert and dispatch local FCC field office agents to locate and resolve the interference problems, giving priority to emergency situations involving potential harm to life and property.

Categories of calls to the FCC's Compliance and Information Bureau include the following:

State and Local Public Safety Emergency Services: Local law enforcement, fire and other public safety entities made 674 requests for assistance. In some instances, police communication channels were being jammed by unknown sources of interference that prevented dispatchers from communicating with officers. In some instances, police officials complained of intruders on police communication frequencies masquerading as official police dispatchers, causing law enforcement units to be directed to fictitious emergency locations.

U.S. Coast Guard: The U.S. Coast Guard sought assistance almost 400 times. In some instances the FCC used its direction finding network to help the Coast Guard locate lost or disoriented boaters who needed Coast Guard assistance. One particular "lost" vessel radioed that an individual on the vessel had a heart attack and needed immediate medical attention. Information from our direction finding capabilities allowed the Coast Guard to locate the vessel, and then transport the heart attack victim for immediate medical attention, thus saving his life. Many of the Coast Guard contacts concerned interference to ship distress frequencies severe enough to prevent real distress calls from vessels getting through. Sometimes individuals deliberately broadcast false distress calls that had resulted in costly and time-consuming Coast Guard air and sea searches for non-existent vessels. The Coast Guard asked the FCC to use its electronic direction-finding capabilities to locate individuals who had broadcast false distress calls

Federal Aviation Administration: The FAA requested assistance 75 times to address such matters as unknown sources of interference on air traffic control frequencies and locating and silencing unauthorized transmissions on frequencies used for aircraft radar identification systems. In a few cases, individuals were intentionally jamming communications between the tower and aircraft, thereby jeopardizing the safety of landing or departing aircraft.

Satellite Search and Rescue System Operators: The Department of Defense and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, operators of the U.S. satellite search and rescue system, asked for FCC assistance 60 times. Search and rescue satellites would receive unknown signals which could mask true distress signals coming from emergency radio beacons carried by most aircraft and many marine vessels. The satellite system rescue operators needed FCC help in detecting the sources of these unknown signals and deactivating them. In the majority of these cases the FCC found that emergency beacons had malfunctioned and were erroneously sending distress signals.

- FCC -

Compliance and Information Bureau Contact : Pamera Hairston (202) 418-1100