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When to use the VHF Radio Signal Mayday, Pan-Pan, or Securite'

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Mayday is an internationally recognized VHF radio distress signal for when there is loss of life, life-threatening emergency, uncontrollable fire, or when a vessel’s sinking is imminent.


Note: Mayday is only to be used in the above circumstances.


Examples of when to use a Mayday radio signal:

-A passenger has become unconscious after injury

-There is an uncontrollable fire onboard



Pan-Pan is an internationally recognized VHF radio signal for when a person or boat is in danger, but no immediate danger exists. Pan-Pan should be used when the situation could potentially escalate into a life-threatening scenario.


Examples of when to use a Pan-Pan radio signal:

- A passenger has sustained a serious injury, but it is not life threatening

- There is a slow leak or the boat has lost steerage


Securite’ is an internationally recognized VHF radio signal for when there is a safety threat to navigation.


Examples of when to use a Securite’ radio signal:

- There is submerged shipping container

- There is a towing operation makes a channel dangerous to navigate

How to properly make a Mayday Call:


  • Although the Coast Guard monitors all channels, switch your VHF to Channel 16, which is the emergency VHF channel many vessels will be continuously monitoring

Tips for speaking into the radio:

  • Speak Slowly and Clearly

  • Put your mouth 2 inches from the microphone

  • Speak loudly, but don’t shout

  • Speak in a slightly higher pitch than you normally speak in.


1. Broadcast Mayday, Mayday, Mayday


2. Broadcast Who you are and your vessel name


3. Broadcast Where you are. If you know your GPS coordinates, say them slowly, if not, then do your best to describe where you are or where you are near. Even if you don’t know where you are, do your best to describe your position, or any landmarks around you.


4. Broadcast What your emergency is. Explain what has happened, and what is happening that makes you in danger.


5. Broadcast What help you require.


6. Broadcast How many people are onboard, and how many are injured


7. Broadcast the Condition of your vessel.


8. Broadcast Your vessel details that could help to identify you


9. Broadcast The best way to contact you. If VHF is the only way of communication, tell them what channel you will be monitoring, if you have cell phone reception, give them your phone number.


10. Give a 20 second interval and repeat until you have a response from the Coast Guard or nearby vessel.

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