Boating emergency information

Emergency Information

United States Coast Guard

VHF radio: Use VHF Channel 16 (156.8 MHz)

Mobile phone: Call 911

United States Coast Guard

BOAT/US Dispatch Center: 800-391-4869 (open 24/7)

SeaTow National Dispatch Center: 800-473-2869 (open 24/7)

VHF Radio Emergency Calling Procedures

Note: Emergency-related calls always have priority over routine messages.

  1. Turn on your VHF radio. Select Channel 16 (the primary hailing and distress frequency) or Channel 9 (the backup frequency).
  2. Set the squelch so you don’t hear any static or “white noise.” 
  3. Listen for 30 seconds (or more) to ensure there’s not a conversation in progress. 
  4. If the channel is clear, push the “Talk” or “Transmit” button. 
  5. State the name of the boat (or marine resource) you’re calling. Repeat that name 2-3 times. Next, state your boat name.
  6. If you don’t receive a response, keep trying until you get one.
  7. When you make contact, provide all details about the emergency. 
  8. For a “Mayday” call, state the type of emergency and the type of assistance you need. State the condition of the boat, along with the number and condition of the people on board.

VHF Distress Signals


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