Coast Guard updates foghorn devices

On Block Island
Thu, 06/06/2019 - 6:15pm

Foghorns on Block Island should no longer be sounding incessantly at all times of the day and night when they shouldn’t be, including during temperate weather, due to a malfunction.

That’s because the U.S. Coast Guard “completed the installation of Mariner Radio Activated Sound Signal (MRASS) devices at 82 lighthouses across the Northeast.” The Coast Guard announced the news via a press release that was issued on Monday, May 13. The new system is triggered when a mariner keys a standard VHF-FM radio five times consecutively on VHF channel 83A.

Nicole Groll, spokesperson for the Coast Guard, told The Times that, “The Southeast Light on Block Island was a part of these updates.” She said, “The North Light is a private aid and does not have a sound signal.” There are MRASS devices at the end of the Old Harbor jetty, and on the end of the east breakwater in New Harbor.

The Coast Guard replaced the foghorn situated at the end of the Old Harbor jetty with an MRASS device on August 29, 2017, due to complaints of its incessant sounding. At that time, Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy Chase said the Coast Guard could not determine a cause for the foghorn’s malfunctioning.

In a video produced by the Coast Guard, Chase said the MRASS systems requires less maintenance and labor, as well as overall costs for operating the equipment. He called the VM-100 an antiquated system that requires costly labor and maintenance, while being more prone to failure.

The Coast Guard noted in its press release issued on Monday that: “The Coast Guard began updating the sound signal devices in 2015 and will complete the final two installations this spring. The purpose of the modernization was to replace the less reliable and less efficient VM-100 fog detectors with a Coast Guard-designed, radio-controlled system. The process also eliminated several 24/7 continuously sounding horns.”

“Mariners needing foghorn assistance must now activate the sound signal by using a marine VHF-FM radio. The MRASS device will allow mariners to energize the sound signal, on demand, by keying a standard VHF-FM radio five times consecutively on VHF channel 83A. The sound signal will then sound for 45-60 minutes following each-activation. The MRASS is an efficient and economical part of the nation’s aid to navigation system that provides a sound signal precisely when the mariner requires it. All changes have been announced via broadcast notice to mariners and in the local notice to mariners.” 

Senior Chief Petty Officer Chase explains the difference between the new and old technology in a YouTube video recorded at two Rhode Island lighthouses. To view the video go to: