Get involved in America’s water watch

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

It has been written and said that 9-11 changed America. Change has taken many forms, but perhaps the most important to our national security has been a united effort to become more vigilant, more aware, more willing to discern if something is &uot;out of the ordinary.&uot;

As a nation, we face what is called an &uot;Asymmetric Threat.&uot;

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In other words, we face an enemy that is capable of many things so we must be equally prepared.

On the water this effort at more vigilance has resulted in the development of America’s Waterways, a joint public outreach effort by the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and multiple federal, state and local agencies. Its purpose is to get the users of our country’s waterways, from boaters and marina operators to tour operators and those working on the water to report suspicious activity that authorities should be aware of. One could consider it a &uot;Neighborhood Watch&uot; for the water!

The idea for America’s Waterway Watch actually is rooted in World War II’s Coast Watch program. Anyone who has watched the history channel for any amount of time has seen programs of Coast Guard members on the beach, some on horseback, some with dogs &uot;guarding the coast&uot;. This brave group watched for submarines, rafts with the enemy onboard and other activity, which would be attempted against the country. They were an incredible deterrent.

The America’s Waterways Program takes it one step further. The new program relies on those that are on the water day in and day out to report things that are not &uot;normal&uot; or seem different from typical patterns.

Let me give you an example which most of us can relate to. If you live on a street in one of Suffolk’s many developments or downtown you start to develop patterns. At 3:30 a.m. the newspaper is dropped in your driveway, at 4:10, your neighbor starts his diesel truck and warms it up, at 5:30 the folks next door start their &uot;power walk&uot;… you know your neighborhood. However, if you see an action that is not consistent with the &uot;norm&uot; is something wrong – maybe.

Now think about the same idea in a maritime sense. If the same boats go in and out on fishing trips and suddenly one day another boat is seen and the occupants are acting peculiar. They are drifting near a critical piece of infrastructure and taking pictures with a long range camera. Perhaps this is an activity in which authorities may be interested.

So how can you get involved? Go to and look through some of options. Interested boaters can look at areas such as, &uot;What is &uot;suspicious activity&uot;? or &uot;where should I look for &uot;suspicious activity.&uot; There is even information on how this program ties into a great homeland security initiative, Maritime Domain Awareness.

A final thought. The Coast Guard and local authorities want the public involved in securing the homeland. Actions by vigilant boaters can serve as a deterrent to a would-be terrorist. This program is not designed to make a recreational boater a law enforcement officer immediately be paranoid about everyone. It is designed is add another layer to a plan to detect and counter people and organizations that may wish to do us harm. Until next week, Boat Safe….and Boat Smart!