Communicating an Emergency

In order to be “rescue ready,” boaters carry a combination of devices on their person and on the boat. Emergency communication devices are not required equipment, however, carrying distress signaling devices are part of state and federal requirements. Both types of devices should be carried on your person to alert search and rescue professionals and to locate your position quickly.

Examples of communication devices include radios (VHF, 2-way), phones (satellite, cellular), Emergency Locator Beacon (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, Personal Locator Beacon), etc.

Distress signaling devices include whistle, flare, mirror, LED white light, Satellite tracking device such as an Automatic Identification System (AIS), Man Overboard device (MOB), etc.

Many boating incidents occur quickly and with little or no time to react. In sudden onset emergencies, a boater is often dependent on what they are carrying on their person at that moment. In other emergencies, having a readily available “ditch bag” is suggested. It is recommended to carry a communication device effective in your specific location. VHF radios will work in coastal areas, while cell or satellite phones may be more appropriate communication devices in others. Certain distress signaling devices are part of state and federal carriage requirements (e.g., whistle, flare). Carry a communication device on your person and on the vessel to alert rescuers and assist in locating your position



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