BoatUS: Now Is the Best Time to Get Your DSC-Equipped VHF Hooked Up Right

Incredibly 80% of DSC VHF Mayday Calls Have No Vessel Location

ALEXANDRIA, Va.,  October 28, 2013 – This time of year, life gets a little slower for  recreational boaters, perhaps freeing up time to fix the important things like  having a fully working VHF radio on board. If you have a basic VHF, checking the connections for  corrosion, inspecting the antenna and doing a simple radio check may be all  that it takes. But if you have a newer Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF, this  is the time to ensure its life-saving, one-button mayday feature is fully  working. This allows anyone on the boat to simply press a button that gives  rescuers near pinpoint location and identification information, greatly  speeding rescue times.
However, the DSC functions  on new radios only work if a Maritime Mobile Service Identity number (MMSI) has been entered into the radio. Further, the US  Coast Guard reports that approximately 80% of the one-button distress calls  from DSC VHF radios it gets each year do not contain vessel position  information, meaning that life savers cannot effectively respond. Boaters  can take two simple steps to make sure their DSC radio will provide rescuers  with the information they need, according to Boat Owners Association of The  United States (BoatUS):
#1: Connect  the DSC-VHF to the GPS/Chartplotter. While some of the newest handheld DSC  VHF radios have GPS built in, most fixed-mount DSC VHF radios must be connected  to an external chartplotter in order to broadcast location information. This single, critical wired connection  increases your margin of safety a thousand times over by allowing rescuers to  find you quickly.
While  there have been challenges with a uniform, industry-wide plug-in connector to  make it easy for do-it-yourselfers, having both the radio and chartplotter of  the same brand and each manufactured within several years of each other makes  it easier. Taking the time to open up both operating manuals is also a good  first step – you likely won’t need to know how to read a wiring diagram as  instructions are in plain text. Most electronics manufacturers also have  customer support phone lines ready to help. And if you’re still having trouble?  Get a professional electronics installer to do the job. After all, aren’t your  family’s lives worth a relatively small $150 service fee to have a pro do it  right? To find one near you, ask at your West Marine store, local marine  electronics retailer, marina or go online at
#2: Get a free Maritime Mobile  Service Identity (MMSI) number that identifies your boat. The MMSI number is a bit like a  phone number for your boat. Having one helps verify an emergency, identifies  your boat to rescuers, and cuts down on the instances of false alarms, ensuring  that critical rescue resources will be available when you need them. BoatUS  offers MMSI numbers for boaters (who remain in US waters) for free at, along with an easy to download tutorial on DSC VHF radios  and how this drastically improved technology is saving lives as a part of the  US Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 System. If you boat in  international waters such as Mexico, Canada, Caribbean or abroad, you’ll need  to get your MMSI from the FCC at:


About  BoatUS:
Boat  Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation’s leading  advocate for recreational boaters providing its over half-million members with  government representation, services such as 24-hour on water boat towing as  well as roadside assistance for boat trailers and tow vehicles, feature-packed  boat insurance programs, money-saving benefits that include marina and West  Marine shopping discounts, and vital information that improves the boating,  fishing and sailing lifestyle. Its member-funded BoatUS Foundation is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible  boating.

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