Skip to main content

Free DSC-VHF radio checks

With some help from TowBoatU.S. companies on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts from Alabama to New Jersey, recreational boaters can now be sure they correctly installed their new Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF marine radio and that it's functional.

A free, DSC-VHF radio check service is now being offered under a single TowBoatU.S. digital hailing number, 0-338-04000, which allows boaters to call their local TowBoatU.S. tower for a complimentary DSC-VHF radio check.

The TowBoatU.S. 0-338-04000 MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) number is available to boaters hailing from the Gulf Coast at Mobile, Ala., Florida and the Atlantic coast up to Sandy Hook, N.J. When this number is "dialed" on a DSC-VHF radio keypad, a boater will automatically be connected to the closest TowBoatU.S. port or response boat within radio range.

"By helping to ensure that this lifesaving device is working properly, we improve boaters' safety. That's important to all of us," said BoatU.S. vice president of towing services Jerry Cardarelli.

While nearly all fixed mount VHF radios sold today are DSC-equipped, boaters have reported that it can be hard to complete a digital radio check unless they have the MMSI of another boater.

DSC-VHF radios offer significant safety improvements over a standard VHF radio. A DSC-VHF includes a mayday distress button that allows anyone on board to summon emergency help. When connected to a GPS, the radio will give rescuers your exact location information.

In addition, these radios work with the U.S. Coast Guard's modern "Rescue 21" system, now operating on the Gulf Coast, Florida and Eastern Seaboard up to Long Island, N.Y. More regions are scheduled to get Rescue 21 service throughout 2009-2011. The system already has proven to greatly reduce search times for boaters seeking rescue, according to TowBoatU.S.

If you'd like to learn more about DSC-VHF radios, go to the free, online DSC-VHF tutorial at where you can also register to receive an MMSI number for your own DSC radio.