Coast Guard urges boaters to carry lifesaving communication, distress gear

9th Coast Guard District News
CLEVELAND – Continuing its active outreach during National Safe Boating Week, the  Coast Guard reminds boaters of the importance of carrying life-saving communication and emergency distress equipment.

While many boaters rely on cell phones for emergency communications on the water, VHF-FM radios are much more reliable in the marine environment and work in areas where cell phones sometimes don’t.  When a mayday is broadcast over channel FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, multiple response agencies and other nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance.

The Coast Guard also highly recommends all mariners equip their boats with Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and/or their life jackets with Personal Locator Beacons.

“EPIRBs and PLBs are absolutely invaluable during emergencies because they instantly alert responders to your distress, provide a precise GPS location and give a description of your vessel when they’re properly registered,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Hedrick, chief of the Telecommunications Branch at the Ninth Coast Guard District. “If your boat capsizes or you fall overboard and can’t get to your radio, these small, relatively inexpensive pieces of equipment, along with your life jacket, really could be the difference between living and dying.”

EPIRBs and PLBs may be activated manually by the push of a button or automatically when they enter the water, depending on the model.

Additionally, in accordance with federal law, recreational boats 16 feet and longer are required to carry visual distress signals such as flares, smoke signals or non-pyrotechnic devices, and vessels 12 meters or longer are required to carry sound-producing devices such as whistles, bells and gongs. State and local laws may require further safety equipment.

Federal requirements can be found in the brochure A Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats.


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One Comment

  1. John A Johnson says:

    The notice to discontinue use of the older 121.5 / 243 mhz EPIRBs neglected to to provide proper disposal instructions. As a result numerous older EPIRBs and ELTs have ended up in trash, dumpsters and landfills, still activated and transmitting; even with long expired batteries.

    Considerable Search and Rescue resources (both air and ground) have been tasked with locating and silencing these errant devices. This has become more difficult since the SARSAT system no longer seeks 121.5 / 243 mhz signals alone without the 406 series mhz encoding.

    Proper disposal instructions should have required the removal (or at least disconnecting) of the batteries for environmentally approved disposal and electronic recycling of the radios