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The Coast Guard reminds boaters the importance of carrying life-saving communication and emergency distress equipment aboard their vessels.
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 Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons.
“EPIRBs and PEPIRBs 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 Capt. Todd Lutes, chief of incident management for the Seventh 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, can be the difference between living and dying.”
EPIRBs and PEPIRBs may be activated manually by the push of a button or automatically when they enter the water, depending on the model.
In 2012, registered EPIRBs and PEPIRBs were directly responsible for 67 lives saved in the Seventh Coast Guard District. 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 additional safety equipment.
Federal requirements can be found in the brochure “A Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats”.