Calls in Boating Emergencies

Know How to Call For Help When Boating

Do I use my marine radio or wireless phone when calling for emergency help?

Wireless phones may be used to call 9-1-1 during a boating emergency. A wireless phone is an excellent backup communications device. However, a wireless phone is not a substitute for a VHF-FM marine radio. A marine radio has several distinct advantages over a wireless phone. With the relative low cost and compact size of a marine radio, any boater on any size craft (including canoes and kayaks) should carry a radio.

A marine radio:

  • Is waterproof.
  • Provides immediate notification of distress to any vessel listening on that channel which means quicker assistance.
  • Allows for rescue units to home in on transmission.

To ensure your safety and the safety of others:

  • Make sure radio is on and turned to VHF Channel 16.
  • Press microphone button and clearly say: "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, THIS IS..." (Give the following information: vessel name and/or description type, color, length).
  • Position and/or location.
  • Nature of emergency.
  • Number of people on board.
  • Release microphone button briefly.
  • Wait for 10 seconds. If no answer, repeat the MAYDAY call.
  • Follow directions and provide information requested by the rescue agency. If situation permits, stand         by the radio for further communication with the Coast Guard or another vessel.

© Copyright 2014 Washington Military Department - Emergency Management Division