If you have an emergency on the water and don’t have your VHF radio, the Coast Guard wants you to call them or dial 911. You’ll then receive a text with a link asking you to share your location.
Your location is then sent to search and rescue crews and is updated every few minutes in case you drift. The new system allows crews to complete search and rescue missions much quicker and more successfully.
“A lot of time is spent ‘in vicinity of.’ This pinpoints an almost exact location – key is almost, there is room for error – to cut down on search and rescue crews and brings crews directly to the distressed mariner,” Petty Officer Nicole Groll said.
The system only works if your location services are turned on. The Coast Guard also recommends your phone be in a water-proof case. However, the Coast Guard says it’s not meant to be used in place of a VHF radio.
“The I911 system and your cell phone doesn’t replace a VHF radio,” Groll said. “A VHF radio is still the most reliable way to call for help and for us to find you on the water.”
As for safety this Memorial Day weekend, the Coast Guard said that, despite the pandemic, they will still be patrolling on the water and making boat checks, but will likely have on PPE.
“We will come out. We just might have some more safety equipment. We might ask you guys to put on some safety equipment. If you are on a boat make sure you have on a mask to make sure we’re safe,” Groll said.
The Coast Guard is encouraging all boaters to check the local, state and CDC guidelines put in place during the pandemic before heading out on the water.
“We know that everybody has kind of been cooped up. The weather is going to be nice this weekend, that’s fine just make sure you’re making the educated decision to go out on the water and please be as safe as you can be,” Groll said.
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