NMEA works on improving distress-signal communication

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In response to a Coast Guard request, the National Marine Electronics Association is working toward a solution aimed at saving lives at sea.

The goal, according to the association, is to ensure that radio distress signals sent by mariners contain GPS information that will enable search-and-rescue teams to locate vessels quickly and efficiently.

Modern fixed-mount VHF radios are required to be equipped with Digital Selective Calling. At the push of a button, the DSC function transmits data to all other DSC-equipped radios within range and to search-and-rescue authorities such as the Coast Guard.

The problem is that boat owners often neglect to connect their DSC VHF with the GPS and many times do not register their Maritime Mobile Service Identity number.

"NMEA will do everything we can to help solve these issues as part of our continuing joint effort with the Coast Guard and the Federal Communications Commission to improve safety at sea," NMEA president David Hayden said in a statement.

"The NMEA 0183 Standard Committee is already working on new specifications, and we will encourage our manufacturer and dealer members to educate the boating consumer about the need to link their DSC radios with a GPS and to register their MMSI numbers," he added. "But at the end of the day we can only recommend that boaters take these actions. We can't mandate them. That job should be a collaborative effort between the Coast Guard and the FCC."

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