The Importance of Communication in an Emergency
by Wayne Spivak; National Press Corps United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
“BOSTON (AP) – A disabled fishing vessel that drifted overnight in waters 80 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard during the first major snowstorm to hit New England this season, was being towed to shore Saturday.”
“WARRENTON, OR – An amazing story of survival, after a 67-year old man gets stuck on a sand bar in the middle of the Columbia River and ends up spending the night there.” – KATU 2 News
“LONG BEACH, Wash. – The Coast Guard airlifted Tyler McLaughlin, 21, of Tillamook, Ore. from the fishing vessel Grenada yesterday evening.” – US Coast Guard
Three events, seemingly un-related: fishing vessel south of Martha’s Vineyard; man on the Columbia River near Warrenton, Oregon; and another man off Long Beach Washington. Three events that happened in the first week of December 2003.
No, this is not the beginning for a new episode of the Twilight Zone. It’s real life news, events that have happened, and unfortunately will probably happen again.
In New England, the vessel Miss Judith, out of Freeport, NY lost her engines. She was adrift in 60-knot winds and 18-foot seas. What did the Miss Judith do? They called the Coast Guard.
In Warrenton, Oregon, Jerry Hanes was moving his boat from Chinook, located in Washington State to Warrenton. As is common in that area of the country, fog rolled in, but what was uncommon was the density of the fog. Mr. Hanes struck a sand bar and grounded. What did Mr. Hanes do? He called the Coast Guard.
Seven miles off the coast of Long Beach, Washington, Tyler McLaughlin was working the fishing vessel Grenada. While handling deck lines, he suffered a compound wrist facture. What did the Captain of the Grenada do? They called the Coast Guard.
Our stories all center on an emergency and a call to the Coast Guard. In each story, the actions or the Coast Guard differed. From just monitoring the situation, to air dropping supplies, or airlifting the individual out of their situation, the Coast Guard was in contact with the vessels in distress.
The story here is about communications – emergency communications. Each vessel had the proper radio (VHF or SSB) to contact the Coast Guard. Each vessel knew how to contact the Coast Guard, and knew what information they needed at a minimum to provide them in order to aid themselves.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, through its Recreational Boating Safety mission, urges all members of the Boating community to become familiar with not only the operations of their individual VHF/SSB radios, but what steps and information is needed when contacting the Coast Guard in an emergency. “Time is non-renewable,” as, stated in a speech recently given by VADM Thomas Barrett, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard.
In an emergency, time may be of the essence, and should not be wasted. Every crewmember and guest should be given a briefing on how to use your radio, and what information is needed in case of an emergency (and where to find it).
Here is what the Coast Guard Auxiliary suggests you have in place before next boating season:
1. Knowledge of where you are at all times (GPS/Loran helps, but a chart is imperative; and electronics can – and often do fail).
2. How many are on-board: Adults/Children and do they have PFD’s?
3. What’s wrong? What is the nature of the distress?
4. Description of your Vessel (Name, Make, Length, Type, Color, Registration numbers/Boat name).