Coxswain Jim Ball, District Staff Officer-Operations, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
The Peninsula is heavily populated with Recreational Boaters, but apparently 90% of them do not realize that their Radio is not configured to help the Coast Guard locate them if an emergency happens. Most modern Boat Radios are now Digital Selective Calling (DSC) radios. They are designed to send out a distress signal with the press of a button.
The first issue is that most boaters (90 % according to the Coast Guard) have not registered their radios and obtained a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number to program vital descriptive information into the radio. When registered and programmed, this information is sent out to the Coast Guard to help identify what your boat looks like, and other emergency contact information. It is only with a programmed MMSI that your DSC radio will properly function.
But wait, we are not done. Even when the radio is properly programmed with the MMSI, it still does not know where it is unless it is either a very new and more expensive model with a GPS integrated into it, or it is properly connected to a GPS device (chart plotter, fish finder, etc.) which most recreational boats have nowadays. If the radio does not have this kind of information from the GPS device, the emergency button will tell the Coast Guard there is a problem, but not where you are.
Connecting the radio to the GPS device involves only 2 wires from each device to each other - the instructions are in each device's manual, and if the manual is gone, it can usually be found on line.
The Coast Guard spends countless hours and funding (your tax dollars) involving numerous personnel in searching for the source of unregistered DSC alerts. Unfortunately, rescue can be delayed by inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated registration information. If a situation is dire, serious injuries can progress to death if rescue is delayed.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary urges all boaters to understand the problem, and to obtain a MMSI number from www.boatus.com/mmsi.
There is a similar problem with Emergency Positioning Information Radio Beacons (EPIRBS ) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs). They need to be registered also, and according to the Coast Guard, there are about 150,000 of them out there that are not. To register one of these go to https://beaconregistration.noaa.gov/RGDB.
If you need assistance with any of these problems, the Williamsburg Flotilla of the Coast Guard Auxiliary is willing to help, so that you will be safer on the water and be using all the emergency resources available to you. Contact us via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see our Facebook page at "U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 67, Williamsburg, Virginia"
We would also like to give your boat a courtesy Vessel Safety Check. Contact us at email@example.com or via google: I Want A VSC.
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