For Hometown News
Ever wonder just what that red button on your new marine radio is for?
Do you know how to use it? Do you know how that little red button can save your life?
All modern marine radios now feature Digital Selective Calling for automated distress hailing.
This feature can only be used if your radio is programmed with a unique code called a Maritime Mobile Service Identity.
The Maritime Mobile Service Identity, or MMSI, is a unique nine-digit number that identifies transmitted signals. Digital Selective Calling technology makes a very high frequency radio function more like a telephone. It allows boaters to send a digital call directly to another DSC-equipped vessel or shore station.
In an emergency, one push of a button and the DSC radio will send an automated digital distress alert consisting of your identification (MMSI) and position (if the radio is connected to a GPS or Loran unit) to other DSC equipped vessels and rescue facilities.
You can privately hail another digital selective calling-equipped vessel, or shore station, if you know their MMSI. It is similar to having a VHF phone number which "rings" the radio called and then automatically switches you to a pre-determined working channel.
MMSIs available through United State Power Squadron are for use by non-compulsory (voluntary) vessels that boat within U.S. domestic waters only.
It is illegal for you to self-assign a MMSI. Use of an unauthorized identity can seriously compromise search and rescue efforts, including misdirection of Surface and Air Rescue forces and alerting of the wrong emergency contacts.
Each vessel you own needs to have a discrete MMSI to be properly identified.
The boater needs to keep his or her MMSI Assignment data current.
Depending on the make and model of the DSC radio, it may limit the number of times you can try to program your MMSI number into the radio. Typically, the radios offer you two chances before locking out future attempts forcing you to send the radio back to the manufacturer.
Get your free MMSI. Visit the U.S. Power Squadron's website at www.usps.org/php/mmsi/home.php.