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Coast Guard Issues Reminder on How to Perform VHF Radio Checks


Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard issued Marine Safety Information Bulletin 20-20, and instructions on how to perform a VHF radio check. The occasion was the October 2 termination of automated radio checks on VHF channels 24-28 by Sea Tow, a commercial towing service popular with boaters along much of the nation's coasts.


For a radio check using the Coast Guard's Rescue 21 system, they offer the following instructions.


How to test a VHF Radio using Rescue 21:

The U.S. Coast Guard continues to offer an automated Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Test Call capability from each of its Rescue 21 coastal stations. All fixed mount marine radios certified by the Federal Communications Commission since 1999 are required to have a DSC capability. All such radios sold since 2011 must also have a DSC test call capability. Marine radios transmitting and successfully receiving a response from a DSC test call can be expected to operate acceptably in the voice mode as well.


To perform a DSC Test Call, enter the U.S. Coast Guard’s coast station group identity “003669999” into the radio’s DSC memory. Once entered and stored, a DSC test call can be made by executing the following three steps:

  1. Select “Test Call” from the radio’s DSC menu,

  2. Select the USCG number entered into memory, and

  3. Transmit the call.

The radio display should indicate when that test call is acknowledged and display the acknowledging station’s nine-digit identity. That identity may be different than the group identity previously entered into memory.


Please use VHF Channel 09 and do not use VHF Channel 16:

VHF Channel 16 is not for the purpose of radio checks. Please use VHF Channel 09, which has been designated by the FCC as a boater’s calling channel.


Questions concerning this notice may be forwarded to Coast Guard Spectrum Management and Communications Policy Division (CG-672) at HQS-SMB-CG-672@USCG.MIL or to the Coast Guard Navigation Center’s “Contact Us” page by selecting ”Maritime Telecommunications” as subject.

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