The Coast Guard says the number of false distress calls it's receiving from the Great Lakes has tripled this year.
The number of emergency calls that turned out not to be emergencies has jumped from 55 last year to more than 160 this year.
Lt. Christopher Yaw with the station in Cleveland says the Coast Guard treats all calls as emergencies, and the false ones usually take two forms. Either they’re an intentional hoax or prank, or they’re a report of something which turns out to be less serious than a caller realized.
“They thought they saw a flare: it’s the Fourth of July coming up here. Flares don’t really look like fireworks, but we could see where they might be mistaken for that.”
Yaw says there’s no pattern to the increase in false distress calls this year, since they’re not concentrated on one type of emergency or in one area.
The penalties for intentionally making a fake call can involve jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Anyone making a distress call in error is advised to contact a local Coast Guard unit.