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Coast Guard search and rescue assets return to Florida Keys, Rescue 21 towers operational

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David Paff
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ORLANDO, Fla. – All Coast Guard small-boat and cutter search and rescue assets in addition to essential personnel assigned to units in the Florida Keys have returned to the Keys, Friday.

Coast Guard assets and personnel were moved away from the Keys for safety purposes during Hurricane Irma. All four 45-foot Response Boat-Mediums and five 33-foot Special Purpose Craft – Law Enforcement, and necessary crewmembers have returned to Stations Islamorada, Marathon and Key West.

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Fast Response Cutters Charles Sexton, Isaac Mayo and Raymond Evans and the National Security Cutter Hamilton have been running search and rescue, and law enforcement operations in the Keys while the station crews were displaced.

Rescue 21 towers at all Keys locations have also become operational via generator power and are functioning as communications towers for Sector Key West operations specialist working out of Martinsburg, West Virginia. Operations specialists are working out of West Virginia until it is safe to return to the sector’s base in Key West.

Mariners in need of assistance are encouraged to call for help on VHF marine radio channel 16. All other VHF channels are also being monitored at all times by watchstanders at the Sector Key West Command Center in West Virginia.

Watchstanders may also be reached at 304-433-3352 until 9 a.m., Saturday. The number will then change to 304-262-6802 for the remainder of the command center personnel displacement.

“Search and rescue efforts in the Keys have been ongoing with limited capabilities despite local crews and assets being displaced from the area with coverage coming from fellow Coast Guard 7th District and Atlantic Area units,” said Lt. Quentin Long, small-boat manager, Coast Guard Sector Key West. “I know our crews are excited to be back operating in their area of responsibility despite the continuing efforts to rebuild and reconstitute the port in the months to come.”

Search and rescue efforts have also been supplemented by personnel and assets from Coast Guard Air Stations Miami and Clearwater, U.S. Navy, Florida National Guard and various other federal, state and local agencies.