Sea users to use VHF, not mobile phones
Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI, 28/05/2005)
On Monday 22 August Lyme Regis RNLI inshore lifeboat rescued four people in a powerboat off Burton Bradstock in Dorset when the glow from their mobile
phones were used to locate the vessel.
The rescue of this 17-ft boat, that did not have VHF fitted, occurred in the dark when the craft’s lights were not working. The Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat’s
night vision aid enabled the crew to pick out the faint glow of the mobiles from 900 metres.
Lyme Regis RNLI volunteer Helmsman James Rice asked the coastguard coordinating the rescue to instruct the people on the speedboat to hold up their
mobile phones and the illuminated displays showed the lifeboat crew where the boat was in the dark.
In Seahouses last weekend, the RNLI all weather lifeboat launched to assist another motor boat that did not have a VHF radio fitted. The lifeboat crew had to
maintain contact with the vessel by mobile phone, which could have lost reception or ran out of battery at any time.
Sea Safety Manager Peter Chennell urges all sea users to have a VHF radio fitted or carry a handheld in order to assist with locating them in the event of an
Peter says: ‘Thankfully on these occasions RNLI lifeboats managed to locate the vessels despite neither vessel having VHF radio sets.
‘However, if the boats had been equipped with VHF sets, rescuers would have been able to pinpoint the position of the vessels quickly and accurately. In more
dire circumstances, the time saved could save lives.
‘VHF radio not only provides the best way of contacting the coastguard or other vessels in an emergency, but also can enable rescue services to locate the
vessel through the signal.
‘As some cases have shown a mobile phone can provide a valuable back up to VHF but should not be relied upon for safety,’ Peter adds.
The RNLI does not encourage people to use mobile phones at sea as a sole means of raising the alarm because of the following:
Rescuers cannot pinpoint the position of a casualty using a mobile.
They have limited battery life
Other nearby vessels are unable to pick up the signal and assist
Signal strength is unreliable
Depending on injuries, a small mobile may prove difficult to use
Flares should also be carried to help rescuers locate the craft in case of emergency