With reports of increased threats of a terrorist attack on our shores, the United States Coast Guard is requesting the assistance of America's 70 million boaters and others, who work, play, or live around our waterfronts, rivers, lakes, and coastal areas to become part of our nation's first line of defense, called America's Waterway Watch (AWW). America's Waterway Watch is an outreach program akin to neighborhood watch programs in many local communities but is focused strictly on marine-related areas. With over 95,000 miles of shoreline, 300,000 square miles of waterways, 6,000 bridges, 360 ports of call, and thousands of marinas, the United States Coast Guard simply cannot be everywhere at once. We need all the eyes and ears of those who frequent our waterways to be on the lookout for suspicious activities that might threaten our homeland security.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary, the volunteer civilian component of Team Coast Guard, currently with around 28,000 members, is helping the active duty Coast Guard get that message out to the boating public. "We are appealing to all those people who live, work or boat on our waterways, says Mike Renuart, the Auxiliary National Liaison for AWW. "They are the very people who know the absolute difference between what is normal or routine and what is out of place, peculiar, unusual, or a possible threat."
The AWW program has a central phone number, 1-877-24-WATCH (1-877-249-2824), where the public can report suspicious activities. This information goes to the National Response Center located at U. S. Coast Guard headquarters, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If what's seen poses an immediate threat, boaters should call local authorities by dialing 911, or the U.S. Coast Guard on Channel 16 of their VHF-FM marine radio. If someone sees something that looks suspicious, boaters should call the AWW toll-free number.
The AWW program is already working. For instance, Sayed Abdul Malike, a suspected terrorist with known connections to Al Qaeda, was apprehended back in 2003, based upon a tip from a local charter boat captain.
Your local Coast Guard Auxiliary unit has several promotional tools to help spread the word including an AWW decal for the helm of your boat, a wallet card, poster, brochure and a video that marina owners, operators, or other presenters can use to educate their residents, tenants, or customers.
For over 60 years, tens-of-thousands of men and women of the Coast Guard Auxiliary have spent millions of volunteer hours helping the Coast Guard carry out its missions. For more information on America's Volunteer Lifesavers, visit our website at:
For more information about America's Waterway Watch, visit www.americaswaterwaywatch.org .