Emergency communications while boating

When an emergency situation develops on the water, boaters need to be able to immediately communicate a need for help. Most boats are equipped with either VHF or SSB radio, which can be used to contact the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters be familiar with the operation of their radio before they leave the shore. Also, in the event that the owner of the boat is incapacitated, every person who comes aboard the boat should be capable of operating the radio.

In an emergency, there are a few pieces of information that one will need to give to the Coast Guard or other rescue team. For one thing, you will need to know exactly where you are. Many boats are now equipped with GPS technology, which provides specific details about location. When contacting the Coast Guard, you should indicate how many adults and children are aboard the boat. If necessary, you should be able to give a brief summary of the boat’s appearance, including its name, make, length, color, and registration number. The Coast Guard will need all of this information in order to locate a boat that has gotten lost or is trapped in inclement weather.

In especially dire circumstances, you may need to make a “mayday” call. This is a call for help from the nearest possible vessel, and should only be made in extreme emergencies. If you hear a “mayday” from another boat on your radio, immediately cease all other communications and listen for the Coast Guard response. If the Coast Guard does not respond, you may respond to the call or try to relay the message to the Coast Guard. It is very unlikely that the Coast Guard will fail to hear a call of “mayday.”


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