Armed with personal locater beacons to send a distress signal, 353 people were rescued in the United States and its surrounding waters in 2007 from potentially life-threatening emergencies. These signals were transmitted to rescue teams via a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) environmental satellite more commonly known for providing information to weather forecasters.
NOAA's polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites, along with Russia's Cospas spacecraft, are part of the high-tech, international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System, called COSPAS-SARSAT. This system uses a network of satellites to quickly detect and locate distress signals from emergency beacons on board aircraft and boats and from hand held personal locater beacons.
The tracking system is now in its 25th year of operation and has been credited with more than 22,000 rescues worldwide, including more than 5,700 in the United States and its surrounding waters.
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