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  #1  
Old 05-29-2007
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USCG radio procedures

I would like to get your opinions about how the CG broadcasts distress call information. Whenever we hear the local CG (Port Angeles, Victoria, or Seattle) broadcasting a Mayday or Pan Pan message we turn the radio up and listen carefully so that we can assist if we are in the area. The problem for us is that after giving a lot of information they only give the location once and quite often we either don't understand it or we don't recognize the name of the location(Doe Cove, Black Bay, etc). If they give the Lat/Long then it is no problem, but this seems to be only about 20% of the calls. The problem is not that we are not familiar with this area, we have been boating here for a long time (30+ years) and probably have more local knowledge than 90% of boaters. We think it would be a good idea for the CG to repeat the location twice and give some sort of reference to the closest well known landmark eg. "in the vicinity of Buckeye Shoal, which is approximately two nautical miles west of the North end of Cypress Island". An immediate broadcast should be made with whatever information they have, but then as soon as possible we would like to hear a followup broadcast with better location info. In the cold water we have here people have a survival window of about 30 minutes, so it's extremely important to get assistance as quickly as possible.
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Old 05-29-2007
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John,

You are absolutely right. I monitor Channel 16 most days and nights, and have been frustrated for years over the problems you cite.

Somehow, those in the upper echelons of the Coast Guard simply don't understand the problem, don't care about it, or don't know what to do about it.

The watchstanders do their best, but they are NOT being given adequate instruction and training about how to speak slowly and clearly, and repeat critical information (like position). I'm a native to the Chesapeake region, have sailed here for many decades. But, with 5,000 miles of shoreline, there are a lot of place names which I still don't recognize. This past Memorial Day weekend the USCG in Baltimore and in Hampton Roads broadcast several PAN PAN alerts for vessels in some sort of distress, but some of these were absolutely unintelligible in terms of position. Even when they repeated the broadcast a hour or so later, it wasn't possible to get the position.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that many watchstanders are young and are not native to the region. Thus they often cite landmarks which are ambiguous or plain misleading to those who know the area.

Any COASTIES reading this???? Listen up. You simply have to do better with the urgent broadcast info. It could help to save some more lives.

Bill
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Old 05-29-2007
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Hi Bill, my wife Laurie has emailed the CG about this and got a non- answer response stating regulations and established radio procedures without addressing the issue. I fully understand the need to immediately broadcast whatever location info. they have in the hope that someone is close by and can lend assistance, but what about someone that is close by and doesn't understand the location info. or isn't familiar with local names? If enough people contact the CG about this we might be able to get some needed changes made. Maybe they do not realize how many people like you (and us) are out there ready and willing to help? John
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Old 05-29-2007
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Call the station in question and ask to speak to the Commanding Officer, I'm pretty sure you'll get immediate results. If not, call the District Headquarters CO. It's a matter of working your way up the chain of command until you get results. Or you can call back on the radio and make them clarify the info. Eventually someone will get the message and broadcast properly in the first place.
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Old 05-29-2007
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Don't be afraid of these guys...make them do their job and do it right. Just like Cops, we pay them to take care of us. (As expected)I did my job and did it well, hence 20 years Good Conduct award. :-)
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Old 05-29-2007
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If you don't copy vital info first time out, why not tell the CG operator that you may be in position to assist and request that they say again the position (or whatever)?
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Old 05-29-2007
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I stay off ch. 16 during an emergency(as required) so I don't tie up the channel asking questions. If there is a long pause with no replies I will sometimes ask for a repeat of the location, but usually I stand by and wait for a repeat. I would guess that the last thing the CG wants is a bunch of people jumping on the channel potentially blocking someone that is in the immediate vicinity from getting through to them. That's the whole point of wanting them to change the procedure so that you don't have to call and ask, if they announced the position twice and then as soon as possible give a reference to a well known position it would eliminate the confusion and possibly get assistance to the emergency quicker(in time).
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Old 05-30-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrd22
I stay off ch. 16 during an emergency(as required) so I don't tie up the channel asking questions. If there is a long pause with no replies I will sometimes ask for a repeat of the location, but usually I stand by and wait for a repeat. I would guess that the last thing the CG wants is a bunch of people jumping on the channel potentially blocking someone that is in the immediate vicinity from getting through to them. That's the whole point of wanting them to change the procedure so that you don't have to call and ask, if they announced the position twice and then as soon as possible give a reference to a well known position it would eliminate the confusion and possibly get assistance to the emergency quicker(in time).
SOP is to get the CG on 16 and ask to imediately go to a side channel, then ask for clarification and let them know if they said it twice and slower, you wouldn't have to call them back
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Old 05-30-2007
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JRD...I tried posting on this yesterday but for some reason it did not appear. Anyway...I think you have raised a really good issue and one which is NATIONAL in scope and not simply local. I took the liberty of writing over on the BoatUS forums to the admin to see if they might help getting senior Coast Guard officers to consider this issue and perhaps open a dialog about what is needed. Aside from the need to repeat and provide reference points and lat/longs we also need to get them to slow down and stop mumbling.

If anyone else believes this is an issue...pls. confirm right here with a post so that BoatUS and the CG may see that this is more than just a couple of whiners...and we might actually save some lives and boats!
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Old 05-31-2007
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It is absolutely an issue, and not just a recent one either. One of it's common manifestations is the shift and answer routine. The CG broadcasts, concluding that one should "shift and answer, Channel 22Alpha, out." If you have poor reception or couldn't hear quite well enough, you do not know where to go.
"One mile east of Wolf's Point" means nothing to a foreign ship, or a sailboat far from it's normal cruising grounds. The CG is actually tending towards using the 'CB' lingo they, and the FCC, so deplore, where local knowledge is required. If Wolf's Point is the obvious reference, being more easily understood than lat/long, then it should at least be conveyed with the most relevant chart number available. The unfaimiliar mariner can then, quickly, assess his proximity to the incident reported.
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