CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The United States Coast Guard is seeking help from the public in fighting false distress calls coming from the Great Lakes.
According to the Coast Guard, there have already been more than 160 false distress calls made across the Great Lakes since the beginning of 2017. That compares to only 55 in 2016.
The hoax calls can be called in either by phone or over marine radio and usually include a report of a person in distress, which causes unnecessary searches and a waste of important resources, such as the Coast Guard's boats and helicopters. Other mariners that may be in legitimate trouble are put at risk because the Coast Guard is then redirected to the fake emergencies.
"False distress and hoax calls expose not only Coast Guard rescuers, but our partner agencies and other mariners to unnecessary risks," said Capt. Joseph McGilley, the chief of incident management for the Ninth Coast Guard District, which is responsible for Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.
Punishment for fake distress calls could result in up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or more.