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Posts Tagged ‘precise location’

5th District Public Affairs
U.S. Coast Guard
Feature Story
Date: October 19, 2011

Contact: 5th District Public Affairs

(757) 398-6272

By Charles Rowe, Coast Guard Sector New York

NEW YORK, NY — Few events are as frightening and as demanding as an emergency afloat.

One of an owner/operator’s most immediate priorities is to broadcast a call seeking Coast Guard assistance. Under the stress of the moment, a voice call can be garbled, incomplete or wrong. When minutes count and lives are in danger, lack of information or poor data can delay the Coast Guard’s ability to rapidly reach a mariner in .

Fortunately, there is a tool available that can instantly broadcast the right information. This tool is Digital Selective Calling (), similar to an electronic maritime pager, which is triggered by a simple button on accepted since June 1999. When the button is depressed for 3 seconds, and if the system has been properly programmed, an alert is automatically broadcast. But, just like any tool, DSC has to be used and cared for properly to be effective.

A recent incident here in New York illustrates what can go wrong:

*At 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 4, 2011, the Coast Guard Sector New York Command Center received a DSC alert via a communications tower at a remote location. A DSC alert is transmitted as a digital data stream.

*The only information contained in the alert was that which comprises a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (). Maritime Mobile Service Identities are nine-digit numbers that specifically identify vessels. (If a GPS is hooked into the DSC-equipped radio, data will also be transmitted.)

*The command center developed a search area based on a probable location and in order to launch aviation units. Within the search area, a search pattern was also established for the Coast Guard helicopter that would be used in an initial search. Simultaneously, the command center researched the MMSI data to identify the registered owner, who was contacted. A short time later, the search was stood down.

Why? What did the Coast Guard learn that caused it to cease efforts before ever launching a helicopter?

When the registered owner was contacted, he stated that he had sold the boat 4 years prior. After further research, the Coast Guard was able to contact the second owner. He had sold the boat a week before. Finally, the current owner was found. When questioned, the current owner admitted that in the course of changing the battery, cleaning and checking equipment, he had inadvertently triggered the DSC distress alert. He also admitted that he had little idea of what DSC was or how it worked.

The potential harm is fairly obvious.

When search and rescue aircraft are launched, it costs several thousand dollars per hour to operate these craft. On a bogus search, that is taxpayer money burned up for no good reason.

When Coast Guard aircraft and boats are fruitlessly engaged in a search triggered by a alarm, they are not immediately available for a real emergency. People in of death or injury and needing assistance right away may have to wait longer than they would if an unnecessary search was not underway.

An owner/operator who triggers an unnecessary search, even by accident, is liable to civil and criminal penalties that may include jail time, civil and criminal fines that can total thousands of dollars, and reimbursement of search costs, more thousands of dollars. A recent search in the Sandy Hook area cost the Coast Guard nearly $90,000.

However, the Coast Guard’s preference is not to punish but to educate.

Responsible owner need to know what to do and how to do it.

Step one comes when you purchase a boat. Buy a marine radio, equipped with DSC. Then you need to register your MMSI data. The web links below will guide you through that process. It doesn’t take long and it could be the difference between being found right away in case of an emergency at sea and not being found until it is too late:

BoatUS: http://www.boatus.com/mmsi/instruct.htm

Seatow: http://seatow.com/boating_safety/mmsi.asp

U.S. Power Squadrons: www.usps4mmsi.com

FCC Online Licensing System: https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsEntry/licManager/login.jsp

Remember, the last owner’s MMIS data leads to him, not to you, in case of emergency.

The second step is to understand DSC, your equipment and how to use it.

A Boater’s Guide to VHF and GMDSS: http://goo.gl/oencz

Yachting and Boat World DSC – Digital Selective Calling: http://goo.gl/rXmxN

GMDSS for Recreational Vessels Using : http://goo.gl/q4mwv

To remind yourself, post these instructions near your radio:

*When testing on the exclusive DSC distress and safety calling frequency 2 187.5 kHz should be avoided as far as possible by using other methods.

*Test transmissions on VHF DSC calling channel 70 should be made to another VHF DSC radio by using a routine individual call to their Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI).

*For VHF DSC radios equipped with the Test Call feature, test transmissions should be made to the US Coast Guard MMSI 003669999 to receive an automated VHF DSC test response. Individual calls to this address will not receive an automated response. For older radios not having a test call capability, testing can only be performed by using a routine individual call to their Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI).

*Under no circumstances shall a DSC distress alert be sent to test your radio. It is a violation of the rules and can result in heavy fines.

*You will need to consult your owner’s manual for the proper operation of your radio.

If you do accidentally trigger a distress alert with DSC, take the following steps:

(1) Reset the equipment immediately,

(2) Tune for radiotelephony on the associated distress and safety frequency in each band in which a false distress alert was transmitted, and

(3) Transmit a broadcast message on Channel 16 to “All Stations” giving the ship’s name, call sign, time the alert was transmitted and MMSI, and cancel the false alert on the distress and safety frequency in each band in which the false distress alert was transmitted.

One of the Coast Guard’s oldest and most honored missions is rescue of those in peril on the sea and from the sea. Every rescue is a race against time, a contest not just with the hostile elements but with a clock that counts down tick by potentially deadly tick.

Don’t make that contest tougher than it has to be.

Do your part to save your own life.

Give the Coast Guard the information it needs to find you as quickly as possible.

Learn how to use your equipment.

And, most of all, don’t trigger a false alarm; someone’s life may depend upon it.

###

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