In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. Coast Guard took on an expanded homeland security mission in addition to its traditional roles of enforcing maritime law, conducting lifesaving search and rescue operations, promoting recreational boating safety, conducting counter-narcotics operations, preventing damage to the marine environment and helping to enforce immigration law.
Staying alert to potential waterborne terrorist activity and securing more than 95,000 miles of shoreline and 290,000 square miles of water is a huge undertaking. An attack on a major port or any critical maritime infrastructure could have devastating consequences, causing widespread loss of life and sending ripple effects throughout the U.S. population and economy.
Coast Guard personnel are the Nation’s first federal responders in a maritime emergency. Those who boat or live or work on or near the water can help the Coast Guard by participating in America’s Waterway Watch (AWW) and reporting any observed suspicious activity, as well as by obeying the new rules put in place to safeguard military and commercial shipping and critical infrastructure.
Watch for Suspicious Activity….
Average citizens can and do play an important role in national security. If you are one of America’s approximately 82 million recreational boaters, or if you live, work, or engage in recreational activities on or near the nation’s waterways, you can help keep these areas safe by participating in America’s Waterway Watch and reporting suspicious activities to local law enforcement agencies.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s AWW program is based on the same principles as Neighborhood Watch and enlists the efforts of the Coast Guard, its Reserve and Auxiliary components, the United States Power Squadrons, and local residents, boaters and businesses, to augment security.
Always remember that people are not suspicious, behavior is. Call 877-24WATCH (877-249-2824) if you notice any of the following:
• Someone taking pictures, video or making sketches of facilities, such as bridges, tunnels, ferry transport systems, fuel docks or power plants.
• Someone asking questions about access to one of these facilities.
• Someone anchoring, fishing or diving in an area not typically used for that activity.
• Unusual night operations, including lights flashing between boats.
• Any boater who misuses their vessel or seems strangely unfamiliar with its operation.
• Unattended vessels near bridges or in unusual locations.
• Unusual transfer of personnel or cargo while underway, anyone tossing items into waterways or onto shorelines, or anyone recovering such items.
• Anyone trying to access a boat by force.
• Seeing a hole in a security fence around an industrial facility.
Do not take matters into your own hands. Call 877-24WATCH (877-249-2824). If you believe there is immediate danger to life or property, call the Coast Guard on Channel 16 VHF-FM, or dial 911. As the Department of Homeland Security puts it: If you see something, say something.
To learn more, visit the America’s Waterway Watch website at www.americaswaterwaywatch.org.
….And Make Sure You Know the New Rules
The Coast Guard has increased waterway security and established Safety and Security Zones to prevent attacks on U.S. Naval vessels, cruise ships and commercial vessels, as well as on critical infrastructure, such as petroleum facilities and nuclear power plants situated on or near the water. As a recreational boater, not knowing how to act in certain areas or situations may put you in legal jeopardy or, worse, at risk of personal injury. These are serious times requiring serious measures, so help protect our country by learning the new rules: