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Thread: Digital Selective Calling (DSC)

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    Default Digital Selective Calling (DSC)

    As I write this, the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska is upgrading the first of our VHF high sites with DSC-capable hardware. This project has been a long time coming and if you've followed any of the past DSC threads on AOD, you'll already know that Alaska's R21 system is slightly different from the rest on the continental U.S. http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rescue21/ The lower 48 system relies heavily on direction-finding (DF) but Alaska's terrain precludes that possibility for us, so DSC is the way to go. In an effort to help educate Alaska's boaters about DSC, we're developing a public education program that will include DSC simulators, a short video and handouts that help boaters understand the importance of registering for an MMSI number and hooking up their GPS to their VHF radios. Once the system is fully capable, a boater in distress will be able to push the red distress button on the VHF and be immediately connected to the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue Command Center with the pre-programmed vessel information. Voice communications will then be established to determine the nature of distress so the appropriate rescue assets can be deployed. DSC is a valuable tool for your survival 'tool box' and can augment any of your existing safety/survival equipment. I will continue to update this thread as additional information/progress becomes available and am happy to field any DSC questions you may have; either PM me or email me direct at michael.r.folkerts@uscg.mil Boat Safer! Mike

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    Look forward to hearing more.
    Recently registered for a number and entered it into our system. Would like to know how to use it and especially be able to test it.
    BK

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    Quote Originally Posted by bkmail View Post
    Look forward to hearing more.
    Recently registered for a number and entered it into our system. Would like to know how to use it and especially be able to test it.
    BK
    bkmail:
    Thanks for getting your VHF MMSI! There's quite a bit of information on the internet (of course!)...one of the best resources is the Boat U.S. DSC tutorial at http://www.boatus.org/dsc/ just be aware that Alaska will not have Direction Finding capability as our terrain precludes that function which is why we're focusing on DSC. Another resource is the National Boating Federations' DSC brochure http://www.n-b-f.org/EducTrainMaterials/DSC_Brochure/DSC_Brochure01_28_12.pdf Please note that Step #5 in the brochure lists a USCG MMSI number to enter for a 'test call'...this will not be functional in Alaska until we have completed our DSC upgrades (I'll notify all on this thread) and will work only if you are within range. You can test your DSC functionality by calling another MMSI; several boaters on this thread have listed their MMSI's so maybe we could use this forum/thread to share info? Simply call another boater using MMSI and if it works, you're in business! Note that DSC distress functionality uses the same technology so PLEASE DON'T PRESS THE DISTRESS BUTTON UNLESS YOU ARE TRULY IN DISTRESS! There is no 'distress test' function that I know of with DSC VHF radios...at least on the models I've seen. Let me know if you have more questions and I hope I've addressed yours. Boat Safer! Mike

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    Thanks for this information Mike. That will be an important advancement for boating safety in Alaskan waters. When I bought my boat six, or seven, years ago it came equipped with DSC-coupled gps and radio. When I power up the radio it always beeps and tells me that DSC is not activated or enabled. Will I have do do anything proactively to activate it or will it come on automatically when DSC comes on line. I boat in the upper Lynn Canal.

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    Mike,
    Appreciate the feedback.
    I have read through the sites to grasp how the system works and its possible uses.
    We have a few friends with the MMSI #'s as well, trouble is we are on the water when thay are at work or vice versa.
    Will continue to screw around with it. Just need to find another boat with a # so we can ping each other and verify we are set up correctly.
    Again, thanks!
    BK

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    Quote Originally Posted by CG Boating Safety View Post
    As I write this, the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska is upgrading the first of our VHF high sites with DSC-capable hardware. This project has been a long time coming and if you've followed any of the past DSC threads on AOD, you'll already know that Alaska's R21 system is slightly different from the rest on the continental U.S. http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rescue21/ The lower 48 system relies heavily on direction-finding (DF) but Alaska's terrain precludes that possibility for us, so DSC is the way to go. In an effort to help educate Alaska's boaters about DSC, we're developing a public education program that will include DSC simulators, a short video and handouts that help boaters understand the importance of registering for an MMSI number and hooking up their GPS to their VHF radios. Once the system is fully capable, a boater in distress will be able to push the red distress button on the VHF and be immediately connected to the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue Command Center with the pre-programmed vessel information. Voice communications will then be established to determine the nature of distress so the appropriate rescue assets can be deployed. DSC is a valuable tool for your survival 'tool box' and can augment any of your existing safety/survival equipment. I will continue to update this thread as additional information/progress becomes available and am happy to field any DSC questions you may have; either PM me or email me direct at michael.r.folkerts@uscg.mil Boat Safer! Mike
    Thank you for the heads Up Mike...

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    Quote Originally Posted by DanC View Post
    Thanks for this information Mike. That will be an important advancement for boating safety in Alaskan waters. When I bought my boat six, or seven, years ago it came equipped with DSC-coupled gps and radio. When I power up the radio it always beeps and tells me that DSC is not activated or enabled. Will I have do do anything proactively to activate it or will it come on automatically when DSC comes on line. I boat in the upper Lynn Canal.
    DanC: My apologies, I'm not the 'techie' when it comes to electronics but I think I'd check and see if there's a MMSI registered in your radio...if you have an owner's manual, there should be a section that tells you how to check the MMSI (mine comes up automatically...); if your's has never had an MMSI programmed in, you can easily get one through Boat U.S. Either do an internet search or use the link in my first post on this thread & look for the MMSI tab. Let me know what you find out; I'm not all that far from you so if you're in Juneau one of these days, give a yell & we'll take a look at your radio! Mike

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    DSC UPDATE:

    The U.S. Coast Guard is completing installation of DSC hardware in several locations in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska; Ketchikan,Juneau, Yakutat, Valdez, Anchorage and Kodiak with limited coverage. Additional sites will be added in the nexttwo years to improve DSC coverage in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. As has been discussed in previous posts, this project will give the Coast Guard the capability of monitoring DSC distress calls. DSC has significantly more features that can be utilized by mariners besides DSC distress; however, for full DSC functionality, your VHF radio must be DSC-capable with a registered MMSI number and correctly connected to your GPS. To assist mariners with DSC, we are rolling out a public education program that will be free to the boaters in Alaska. We will have a traveling DSC Simulator set up in various locations around SE and SC Alaska along with operators that can help answer your questions. Our first public appearance is scheduled to be at Cabela’s in Anchorage on 29 August. Watch for local advertising or watch this thread for more details! BoatSafer! Mike

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    I noticed Homer wasn't included in those locations. Any idea if DSC will be operational in Homer?

    Also, it's my understanding that even without DSC support (transmission to Coast Guard) that I can still hit the button and other boats with DSC setup will receive the alert. Is this true?

    Thanks!

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    mbarth: Yes, Homer will be included with the Coast Guard's DSC program; I don't have the schedule in front of me but I would guess that Homer would be pretty high on the list. You can still use the DSC distress function and any other DSC-equipped vessel in range can receive your signal. We've started a DSC education program and I expect to be in Anchorage this coming weekend to launch it; Cabelas on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. We'll be right out front. Boat Safer! Mike

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    Thanks for the info! I'm glad to hear that Homer is on the list. I didn't make the launch at Cabelas. I live in Homer and really avoid leaving here in the summer

    I reviewed the "Rescue21" link that you referenced. I didn't see any published schedule. Is the schedule available to the public? It would be nice to know when it's up and running in the individual areas. It would also be good for the local media so they can get the word out that the DSC is operational.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbarth View Post
    Thanks for the info! I'm glad to hear that Homer is on the list. I didn't make the launch at Cabelas. I live in Homer and really avoid leaving here in the summer

    I reviewed the "Rescue21" link that you referenced. I didn't see any published schedule. Is the schedule available to the public? It would be nice to know when it's up and running in the individual areas. It would also be good for the local media so they can get the word out that the DSC is operational.
    I'll post on this thread when we're operational & where we expect coverage as I get the information. We're drafting a Local Notice to Mariners this week and will be working on a short video Public Service Announcement. I also expect to be at next spring's Great Alaska Sportsman's Show with the DSC Simulator and will be doing mini-seminars as the opportunities come up (watch this thread!). We'll do a press release I'm sure! Boat Safer! Mike

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    Hey Mike, there is a Boating Skills and Seamanship course being given in Anchorage on Monday evenings 9/22 - 11/17. Are y'all involved with this? If so, will DSC be part of the agenda?

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    Frostbitten: I believe that class is being offered by the Whittier Flotilla; contact Jim Hendley at (907) 360-7165 for more information...I'm pretty sure they'll be talking about DSC somewhere during the class; if not, certainly ask them! Mike

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    DSC program update:
    Yesterday, I presented the DSC program to 35 people in Juneau (two sessions). Several questions about DSC have popped up and I'd like to talk a bit about them:

    "If I hook up my DSC, will other boaters be able to find me?"
    This seems to be a fairly common concern, especially among those who guard their fishing hotspots carefully! Think about DSC and how it works; imagine someone has your phone number (MMSI) and they dial you...you can answer...or not! Just like a telephone, your DSC radio receives the DSC position request and if your VHF/DSC radio is set to auto-answer, then yes, your best fishing spot has just been compromised. Most VHF/DSC radios have the option to auto-answer or manually answer. Remember that if you set yours on auto reply, you've just given anyone with your MMSI (phone number) the ability to find you.

    "Can't I just push the distress button if I get in trouble?"
    Sure, you can push the button (don't forget to hold it down for 3-5 seconds so it will actually transmit!)...but remember, if you haven't registered for an MMSI (http://www.boatus.com/mmsi/) and programmed your radio with the MMSI, and if you haven't properly connected your GPS to your VHF/DSC radio, the distress alert you'll be sending out does not have the critical information about who you are and where you are! Once the distress signal has been received without the info, the CG cannot launch until we get more information. Not programming and connecting your radio could delay or even prevent a response!

    "Why do I need DSC? I already have a cell phone and a SPOT!"
    Imagine that you are a carpenter and all you have is a hammer and a saw...can't build very much or what you do build won't be all that great. Having tools in your toolbox ensures that you have the right tool for the job at hand. No single tool can do everything (although I've done quite a bit with a hammer!), so limiting yourself to only a couple of tools to save your life may mean that you don't have the right one when you need it. For example, if you fall overboard and there's other people on the boat, maybe all you need to do is yell or blow your whistle to get their attention for a speedy rescue and all you did is get wet and a little cold. What if you were by yourself? Then falling overboard becomes a much more serious problem! Now you need to call/contact assistance and you need to do it fast (remember the effects of sudden cold water immersion?). The whistle or yelling might not be the right 'tool' but the PLB, VHF radio or skyblazer flares in your life jacket pockets might do the trick! What if your engine quits and the wind is blowing you towards the rocks? Push the DSC distress button and deploy your anchor. Of course there will be times when the cell phone and a SPOT will do what you need them to, but certainly not everytime! Keep plenty of survival tools available and working so they're available when you need them!

    I'm sure there will be many more questions and concerns about DSC and how it works; our DSC simulators will be available for the boating public to try out so watch this thread to find out where/when! At some point, perhaps the site administrators could make this thread a sticky and it will be easier to find/monitor!

    Boat Safer!
    Mike

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    We plan on having a DSC simulator at the Great Alaska Sportsman Show this year; you can find me at the US Coast Guard Auxiliary booth. Please stop by and check out the simulator! I'll try and be at the booth as much as I can...if I'm wandering around, just ask whoever is at the booth to give me a call. See you there! Mike

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    One word of caution: before you invest any faith in the capability of this new system, please make sure that your radio is programmed correctly, and it connected properly.
    Take the time to register with BoatUS if you're a Rec Boater, and with the FCC if you're a commercial operator. Be weary of used VHF's - MMSI's can only be programmed into the radios once.
    A sound connection to a reliable GPS signal is the other half of the battle - without that you transmitted position is useless. Butt splices from autozone don't qualify as sound connections any more than the ScotchLok connectors from 3M (round clear plastic do-dads used in phone wiring). If you have any doubts, consult a qualified person, small price to pay for a couple of wire connections that could potentially save your life.

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    We use DCS quite a bit while out in PWS. Better than calling thru the gamut of commercial Guys each day. It doesn't seem to bother the regular flow of traffic too.


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    I wish other people would ad the MMSI to my older post


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    Quote Originally Posted by AKGoofballs View Post
    One word of caution: before you invest any faith in the capability of this new system, please make sure that your radio is programmed correctly, and it connected properly.
    Take the time to register with BoatUS if you're a Rec Boater, and with the FCC if you're a commercial operator. Be weary of used VHF's - MMSI's can only be programmed into the radios once.
    A sound connection to a reliable GPS signal is the other half of the battle - without that you transmitted position is useless. Butt splices from autozone don't qualify as sound connections any more than the ScotchLok connectors from 3M (round clear plastic do-dads used in phone wiring). If you have any doubts, consult a qualified person, small price to pay for a couple of wire connections that could potentially save your life.
    To reinforce AKG's caution, please ensure your GPS is properly connected & MMSI is programmed! When our Command Centers get a DSC Distress alert and the GPS isn't connected, the 'search box' is too large to launch on...we literally do not know where you are! And, if the MMSI isn't registered and properly input into the VHF radio, we don't know who we're looking for or what type of boat. DSC is a great tool and certainly will help save your life but only if you do your part (connect & register). If you do have a used VHF with an MMSI already in it, you can either return it to the manufacturer to be reset or contact http://www.boatus.com/mmsi/ and you can update/transfer MMSI information. Regarding GPS/VHF connections, AKG is right on the money again, a good connection is a critical component and the marine environment is unforgiving with poor electrical connections. A marine grade connector is well worth the investment! Boat Safer! Mike

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