SAFER PADDLINGstream: Calling For Help | Adventure Kayak Magazine | Rapid Media
A stranded kayaker calls "mayday" for emergency help. Screen Shot | Water Sports Foundation

Learning Proper Radio Protocol For Emergencies

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Calling For Help | Safer Paddling Series: Episode 8 | Rapid Media

In partnership with the U.S. Coastguard and the Water Sports Foundation, instructors Paul and Kate Kuthe of the American Canoeing Association teach proper radio protocol for emergencies on the water in Safer Paddling Series: Episode 8.

Knowing how to properly call for help is crucial to your safety on the water. 

To call the coast guard or any other boat during an emergency, turn your VHF radio to channel 16.

Channel 16 on a VHF radio will connect you with the coast guard or other boats during emergencies.

Repeat the word “mayday” three times. Say “this is,” then repeat the name of your vessel three times. If you’re in an unnamed kayak, use a visual description, like the colour of your boat.

A stranded kayaker describes his boat to emergency responders on VHF radio.

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Repeat “mayday” once more, and the description of your kayak.

Use a compass bearing to give your coordinates.

Next, give your position. If you have them, use your GPS coordinates. If not, the next best thing is a compass bearing and a distance to a well-known landmark, like a navigational aid or a small island.

Adding any descriptive information can help with your rescue.

State the nature of your distress, the kind of assistance needed, and the number of people in your group. Add any other information that might help with your rescue. Then, say “over.”

Be smart. Be safe. Have fun. 

As a United Stated Coast Guard nonprofit grant recipient, the Water Sports Foundation produces paddling safety outreach materials and distributes them through boating and paddling media providers. Paddle sports currently has an inordinately high rate of accidents and deaths that for the past five years has been increasing, while power boating stats have been decreasing during the same period. The goal is to create heightened public awareness of safer paddling making paddle sports safer and to ultimately reduce the total number of paddle sports related deaths annually.

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