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Passenger Vessel Safety Program

Mass Rescue Operations

Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Search and Rescue - Mass Rescue Operations

A mass rescue operation (MRO) is one that involves the need for immediate assistance to large numbers of persons in distress such that capabilities normally available to search and rescue (SAR) authorities are inadequate.

Fortunately, MROs are relatively rare compared to normal SAR operations, but major incidents leading to the need for MROs have not been infrequent on a world-wide basis, and can occur anywhere at any time. Since the nature of such operations may be poorly understood due to limited chances to gain experience with major incidents involving MROs,

Flooding, earthquakes, terrorism, casualties in the offshore oil industry, accidents involving releases of hazardous materials and major aircraft or ship incidents are examples which, because of their magnitude, may need to use the same resources as would be needed to carry out mass maritime or aeronautical rescue operations.

The sequence of priority in major multi-mission incidents must be lifesaving first, generally followed by environmental protection, and then protection of property.

Moral and legal obligations, as well as public and political expectations, drive the need to be prepared to carry out MROs safely and effectively should they become necessary. Since the need for MROs is relatively rare, it is difficult to gain practical experience to help deal with them. While the types of potential MRO scenarios, as well as the organizations, emergency response structures and circumstances vary from place to place, there are certain general principles, common actions and examples that can be followed.

For more information on how to plan for MRO Operations contact your Passenger Vessel Safety Specialist.

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Last Modified 6/6/2014