3 Mistakes Boaters Don’t Want to Make with DSC-VHF Radios

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – For recreational boaters, sailors and anglers, a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF radio on board is the fastest way to summon emergency assistance from your closest rescuers. Going without one can hurt your chances for a safe summer on the water. Here are three common mistakes boat owners make with DSC-VHF radios and some simple ways to improve safety aboard your boat.

Mistake #1

Relying on an old VHF radio to signal that you are in distress. If your VHF radio is more than 15 years old you’re relying on old technology. Hardly anyone regularly uses a 15-year-old phone, television set or computer, right? Today’s DSC-VHF radios have a distress button that can hail a mayday and relay your position to rescue authorities. Just push of one little red (distress) button on the face of the radio. BoatUS has some help to set up your new DSC-VHF radio at BoatUS.com/SettingUpDSCRadio.

Mistake #2 

Thinking you don’t need to register a DSC-VHF and get an MMSI number. A Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number is a unique registration number for your vessel’s DSC-VHF radio. BoatUS and other organizations issue the numbers. BoatUS  offer the service at no cost to members or for a nominal $25 fee for non-members. The boater must enter the MMSI into the radio to harness all of its power and lifesaving technology. Registering your radio gives potential rescuers important information about you, your boat and whom to contact in an emergency.

Mistake #3

Not reading the owner’s manual that came with your radio and learning your radio’s features. Your DSC-VHF radio manual contains a ton of great information about your radio’s features and how to install it. If you don’t install the radio properly or don’t connect it to your boat’s GPS or chart plotter, you might put yourself and your crew in danger. It could  delay emergency response.

Digital Selective Calling technology can also make your everyday boating better. In addition to its push-button distress signal, a DSC-VHF radio can privately hail other DSC-VHF-equipped vessels or groups of boats—without tying up VHF channel 16. That’s the distress, safety and calling frequency. It also allows you to ‘ring’ (hail) others if you know their MMSI number—they don’t have to monitor a particular channel.

If you haven’t yet purchased a DSC-VHF radio, make it one of your safety-gear priorities this season. To learn more DSC-VHF radios, take a free online DSC-VHF radio tutorial at www.BoatUS.org/DSC. The course is provided by the 501(c)(3) BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water and funded by BoatUS members.