National Safe Boating Week 2010 – Communication devices can save your life

JUNEAU, Alaska – In an effort to help educate boaters, the Coast Guard will be providing daily educational information throughout National Safe Boating Week on safety topics in communication devices, life jackets, emergency kits, float plans, and boating safety courses and vessel safety checks throughout the week.

Communication devices could be called the most important piece of emergency equipment on board a vessel. Cell phones, satellite phones, emergency position indicating radio beacons, VHF radios and personal locator beacons can all contribute in an emergency situation.

Boaters should keep in mind that Alaska has VHF coverage dead spots and it is advisable to always have a secondary means of communication.

Cellular telephones can be unreliable when traveling throughout Alaskan waterways and should not be used as a primary means of communication. The farther away from land the less likely you are to have reception and is the main reason it’s recommended to have multiple communication devices.

“While cell phones have become a widely used communications device, there are many areas in Southeast Alaska with little or no cell coverage,” said Scott Giard, lead command center controller for Sector Juneau. “The Coast Guard strongly encourages all boaters to carry a VHF marine band radio to contact the coast guard in the event of an emergency.”

Below are details of a few communication devices:

EPIRB:  EPIRBs can help save your life if you get into trouble by alerting rescue authorities to your location. This device can be manually triggered or automatically triggered by water immersion. It is important to ensure EPRIBs are properly registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

PLB: Similar to an EPIRB, however the device is smaller and may be attached to a person’s body. If the person falls overboard the device signals their exact location to a satellite that in turn relays the information to the nearest rescue coordination center.

Satellite phone: A satellite phone is a type of mobile phone that connects to orbiting satellites. Depending on the type of phone this device’s coverage may include the anywhere on earth.

VHF radio: A marine VHF radio is a two way communication device which can be used to communicate with rescue coordination centers, other boaters or marinas that are nearby. This device can be used to tune into channel 16 which is the international calling and distress channel which the Coast Guard monitors continuously.

For more information on EPIRBs click here.

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