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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Making and responding to distress (emergency) calls




Before an emergency occurs, be sure you know how to make a distress call
on a frequency where hams are likely to be listening, such as a marine ser­vice net or a wide-coverage repeater frequency. Store at least one of these fre­quencies in your radio’s memories, if possible. Anyone, licensed or not, can use your radio equipment in an emergency to call for help on any frequency. You won’t have time to be looking at net directories in an emergency. Do the following things when you make a distress call.

  1. If you need immediate emergency assistance, the appropriate voice
    signal is MAYDAY and the appropriate Morse code signal is SOS (yes,
    just like in the movies). Maydays sound something like: “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, this is 9W2PJU,” followed by:
    • Your location (latitude/longitude) or address of the emergency
    • The nature of the emergency
    • What type of assistance you need — such as medical or trans­portation aid.
  2. Repeat your distress signal and your call sign for several minutes or
    until you get an answer. Even if you don’t hear an answer, others may hear you.
  3. Try different frequencies if you do not get an answer. If you do decide to change frequencies, announce to what frequency you are moving so that anyone hearing you can follow.

If you hear a distress signal on the air:

  1. Immediately find something to record information. Note the time and
    frequency of the call. To help the authorities render assistance as quickly
    as possible, note the following information:
    • The location (latitude/longitude) or address of the emergency
    • The nature of the problem
    • What type of assistance he or she needs — such as medical or transportation aid
    • Any other information that is helpful.
  2. Respond to the call. Say “[Give the station’s call sign], this is [your call
    sign]. I hear your distress call. What is your situation?”
  3. Using Morse code, you send “[station’s call sign] DE [your call] RRR WAT
    UR INFO?” or something similar. Let the station in distress know who you are and that you hear them.
  4. After you acquire the information, ask the station in distress to remain on frequency.
  5. Call the appropriate public agency or public emergency number, such as 911. Explain that you are an amateur radio operator and that you received a distress call. The dispatcher either begins a process of asking you for information or transfers you to a more appropriate agency. Follow the dispatcher’s instructions to the letter. The dispatcher may ask you to act as a relay to the station in distress.
  6. As soon as possible, report back to the station in distress. Tell them who you contacted and any information you have been asked to relay.
  7. Stay on frequency as long as the station in distress or the authorities
    need your assistance.

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