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How to Make a Mayday Call

Get rescued quickly by making a Mayday call the right way.

April 7, 2016
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How to Make a Mayday Call
How to Make a Mayday Call Jim Hendricks

There is a right way to make a Mayday call. When seconds count, use this established procedure to summon help. Here’s how to do it.

Cool and Calm
The distress call takes priority over all radio transmissions, and you don’t need to address it to a particular U.S. Coast Guard station. Tune your VHF radio to Channel 16, key the microphone, and slowly and clearly say, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, this is vessel Editorial License,” three times in succession. Let go of the mic button and wait for a reply.

The Right Stuff
The Coast Guard will require the following information, so be prepared to give it.

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*Vessel call sign and/or name
*Your position, preferably in latitude/longitude. If that is not available, use a range and bearing (for example, “6 miles SSE of Ludington Lighthouse”).
*What is wrong (state the nature of your distress or difficulty)
*Assistance desired (include if anyone needs medical attention)
*Number of crew aboard
*Present seaworthiness of the boat and condition of the engine
*Description of the vessel (length, type, power and color, including trim or distinguishing features)
*Listening radio frequency (make a communications schedule with your rescuers)
*Any survival equipment available (life jackets, life rafts, survival suits, EPIRBs, etc.)

Three Serious Situations
Mayday (immediate danger): Only use the term Mayday when you are in “grave and imminent” danger and require immediate assistance.

Pan-pan (urgent attention required): Use this for a situation that is urgent — but not imminent — concerning the safety of a vessel or person. Repeat pan-pan (rhymes with “con”) three times.

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Sécurité (safety signal): Use this term when the situation isn’t urgent, such as if you are concerned about being able to safely navigate your vessel, or to warn others of a hazard, like floating debris. Transmit the term sécurité (say-cure-ee-tay) three times in succession.

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