United States Coast Guard (USCG) issued a safety alert , to remind marine radio users of the importance and value of properly configuring their Digital Selective Calling (DSC)-equipped Very High Frequency (VHF) radios, to enable proper function during an emergency situation.
When properly installed, DSC allows the mariner to simply hit the red DSC button in an emergency, resulting in the vessel’s geographic coordinates and registered Maritime Mobile Service Identities (MMSI) number to be transmitted to nearby DSC enabled vessels and shore-based VHF towers.
During a marine casualty involving the loss of life aboard a commercial fishing vessel, it was found that the DSC-equipped VHF radio was not properly configured with the vessel’s GPS system. While the Master was able to broadcast the vessel’s position before sinking, having the DSC alert properly enabled could have provided the master more opportunity to focus on emergency operations and egress from the sinking vessel, while still continuously broadcasting an emergency signal over VHF.
The Coast Guard strongly recommends that vessel owners, operators, and crewmembers with DSC-equipped VHF radios:
- Obtain and properly register an MMSI number.
- Ensure that their GPS and DSC-equipped radio are interconnected. Doing so may save their life in a distress situation! All DSC-equipped radios, and most GPS receivers, have an NMEA 0183 two-wire data protocol which allows for any model of GPS to be successfully interconnected to any model of radio, regardless of manufacturer. Before interconnecting their radio & GPS, they must consult the owner’s manuals.
- Confirm proper operation of your radio equipment.
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