VHF Radio Usage

Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#1
Around I boat, the waters are cold even in summer. You can get hypothermia in as little as 20 minutes. While we rely on phones while on land, VHF radios are the weapon of choice on the water since they broadcast the signal and many other boaters can hear it and potentially come to your rescue. There is a proper protocol for calling for help which this video from Australia nicely demonstrates. Note that channel assignments and usage can vary based on country you live in. So be sure to check for that before running with what is stated in this video.

Also for those of you in US, Digital Selective Calling or DSC has been mandatory in US radios for a few years now which provides an automated distress call. I will try to find a video showing the aspects of that system. Please watch the video. Knowing what to do will greatly reduce the stress of emergencies, enabling you to act more efficiently and reduce or eliminate the chances of injury or loss of life. Hopefully you never have to use any of this but better be prepared:

 
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#2
As promised, this is the video on DSC system and how it works. It is a quick watch but covers all the key points. Note the parts about connection to GPS data source and getting an MMSI number. Something like half the people don't connect their radio to GPS sources. As a result, the authorities lack your location which is a hugely important part of the puzzle. Without it, they would have to rely on radio triangulation which is slow and only narrows the search area to a rather large area rather than to just a few feet with GPS. MMSI number is free to acquire and the web site is on boatus (shown in the video). It takes just 5 minutes to fill out. That data enables the authorities to contact your family or friends or you with other means like cell phone (e.g. if your VHF radio fails). Sadly, all the DSC distress called I have heard notice of from coast guard on the water have been without registration and GPS location. Please don't let that happen to you.


Even if you paddle in a canoe, you should have a VHF radio with DSC if you are away from protected waters. Get one with built-in GPS so that it knows your location per above. Then all you have to do, is get the MMSI number.

NOTE: Read the instructions on your VHF radio on how to activate the DSC Alarm. On my radio, you have to hold the alarm button down for 5 seconds. The video implies that the activation is instant which obviously is not the case for my radio and likely is not for yours either.
 
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#3
DSC Radio Usage Examples

DSC radio can be used for both emergencies and for calling another boat, kind of like using your phone. Unlike your phone though, it is a very non-intuitive system to use, further compounded by the poor user interface on radios with too few buttons. Programming the phone with directories and such can be quite a nightmare. This video shows those features should you be inclined to use it. In this day and age, if you fish close to shore, you can use your cell phone almost as well or better to stay in touch with your fishing buddies. So the main reason to watch this video then may be for the demonstration of how an alarm is activated and received on your radio.

Note: in US, it is illegal to test the DSC alarm function. Sad but true. The feature you rely on for your life, cannot be tested or allow you to learn its proper operation. There is now a mandated test button on newer DSC radios in US to enable testing of the system. I will look for a video on that.

 

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