VHF Radio Tutorial Available Online

By broadcasting your exact Mayday location with the simple push of one button, new Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF radios give recreational boaters and the U.S. Coast Guard enhanced search-and-rescue capabilities. But do you know enough about this new marine radio system to help save a life — possibly your own?

To help boaters understand the latest advances in marine radio communication, the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has launched a free online marine DSC VHF radio tutorial for anyone interested in the new technology. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Coast Guard, the online tutorial, "Can You Hear Me?" is designed to educate boaters on all of the basics of DSC VHF radios.

By understanding how these radios work, boaters will be able to take advantage of the latest innovations in search-and-rescue technology.

The 35-minute, narrated Web-based program covers all of the basics and even allows viewers to try various radio buttons and sounds on their computers to simulate how a DSC VHF radio would operate. Topics covered include emergency signaling, how to install a DSC VHF radio, and an overview of the U.S. Coast Guard's "Rescue 21" program.

The tutorial is located at http://www.BoatUS.com/MMSI

No special computer program is needed to view the seven-part tutorial and it's compatible with both PC and Mac formats. A viewer can stop the tutorial at any point and return to the same spot later on.

For those familiar with some of the topics, the tutorial lets boaters skip around from chapter to chapter.

While the majority of fixed-mount VHF radios available today have the DSC feature, most boaters have not registered their radio in order to get the unique calling number — much like a telephone phone number — called an Maritime Mobile Service Identity or MMSI number.

The tutorial also covers this process, which is free through BoatU.S. Equally important is connecting the radio to a GPS so that vessel location is broadcast with a distress call.

The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit education and research organization primarily funded by the voluntary contributions of the 670,000 members of BoatU.S.

The foundation operates more than a dozen programs including the only accredited, free, online general boating-safety course, a low-cost EPIRB rental program, the "Help Stop the Drops" national clean-fueling campaign, a free kid's Life Jacket Loaner Program, and has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for nonprofit groups for boating-safety and environmental projects.

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