If you find yourself knee-deep in an on-water emergency, do you pick up your VHF radio with digital selective calling (DSC) or reach for your cell phone to dial 911? It’s no secret that cell phones are omnipresent in the average boater’s life, but when a boater calls 911, the call doesn’t always go to the responsible rescue agency for the quickest response, according to the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS). The new Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act, passed in 2018, is expected to improve the reliability of 911 calls for recreational boating emergencies as one of its provisions.
Under the recently passed act, the U.S. Coast Guard must review its policies and procedures to “formulate a national maritime Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) policy.” According to Boat US, there are already 6,000 PSAPs in the U.S. where local 24/7 call centers route 911 calls to the proper emergency service. This act will assist 911 callers in being directed to the appropriate rescue agency, which will hopefully strengthen emergency response efforts for boaters.
Executive director of the Conference of Professional Operators for Response Towing (C-PORT) Tina Cardone shares her thoughts on the matter, “This effort will help minimize the possibility of maritime calls being improperly routed and to ensure the U.S. Coast Guard is able to effectively carry out its maritime search-and-rescue mission.”