Coast Guard to fire blank rounds, test green laser

By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News

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SEATTLE — If you hear the sound of shots and see glimpses of a green laser light on the Hood Canal on Wednesday, it is only a test.

No live ammunition will be fired during the Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit scheduled from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. south of the Hood Canal Bridge, said Robert K. Lanier, public affairs officer for District 13.

During the exercise — which will cover boat tactics, security zone maintenance and weapons capabilities — Coast Guard personnel will use blank rounds.

“Blank rounds are not projectiles, and no one person will have anything shot at them,” Lanier said in a prepared statement.

“You’ll hear sounds, as if a gun were being fired,” Lanier said in a phone interview Friday, but the sound is only to simulate “the feel of an actual gun being shot for gunners.”

Coast Guard personnel also will practice maneuvering boats at high speeds, he added.

The primary focus of the exercise is to test the viability of using green lasers to get the attention of mariners who have drifted into a security zone around a Navy ship.

“We’re putting this to the test to see if it’s something we want to use,” Lanier said.

By law, boaters are not permitted to come with 1,000 yards of a Navy “asset” without permission from the Coast Guard patrol commander via VHF channel 13 or 16.

Within 500 yards, boats are to the minimum speed needed to maintain course and they aren’t permitted at all within 100 yards of a Navy ship without permission from the unit’s commanding officer.

“Sometimes people aren’t aware of the zone,” Lanier said.

“We could use the green lasers to get their attention.”

“We’re not using that tactic now,” he emphasized.

“This exercise would test those lasers, and if it is decided that this is the best way to notify people who encroach on the safety zone, then we will use this signaling technology.”

The lasers also could be used to warn mariners of potential hazards.

The lasers are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and viewing their light will not cause harm to the eyes or body, Lanier said.

A safety zone will be in effect around Coast Guard ships serving as stand-ins for Navy vessels during the exercise, he said.

The exact coordinates of the exercise will be broadcast to mariners on Tuesday, the day before the exercise, as well as the day of the exercise, Lanier said.

On Thursday, another message will be broadcast to mariners to let them know the exercise is over.

Marine mammal spotters will be on all Coast Guard vessels during the exercise, and if a marine mammal is spotted, the exercise will be stopped, Lanier added.

Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at

Last modified: October 15. 2012 5:52PM
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