DSC alerts

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PLBS tests must be car­ried out in the first 10 min­utes of the hour), but try to test at quiet times in quiet lo­ca­tions, and with the unit close to wa­ter level to min­imise its broad­cast range.

If in a high traf­fic area, call the coast­guard and no­tify them of the MMSI num­bers for each de­vice you are test­ing, your lo­ca­tion and the times you will be test­ing. If you are not able to reach the coast­guard by ra­dio then call them on the tele­phone.

Once ac­ti­vated each de­vice trans­mits po­si­tion, time, COG, SOG and a sen­tence iden­ti­fy­ing the unit as an MOB/SART. What is seen on the screen of any given re­ceiver will de­pend on the re­ceiver’s age. Most units now show the MOB sym­bol of a red cir­cle with an ‘X’ in it, how­ever older soft­ware may not and the MOB will show up as a nor­mal ves­sel. Only the MMSI num­ber start­ing 972 iden­ti­fies the icon as a per­sonal de­vice. It is vi­tal all crew know ex­actly what the AIS re­ceiver will show when a de­vice is ac­ti­vated.

Au­di­ble alarms for MOB alerts can be gen­er­ated through var­i­ous AIS view­ers and re­ceivers, how­ever once again this de­pends on in­di­vid­ual set ups. Many sets are ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing an au­di­ble alarm but only if a speaker is at­tached to the sys­tem. It is some­times pos­si­ble to tick the ‘au­di­ble alarm’ op­tion, even if there is no speaker avail­able so no sound will ac­tu­ally be made.

Es­pe­cially if sail­ing short­handed, an alarm is es­sen­tial to the life­sav­ing po­ten­tial of the AIS de­vice. If you are not able to wire a speaker into your sys­tem con­sider get­ting an AIS de­vice that in­cor­po­rates a DSC alert, or running your AIS through a third party com­puter pro­gram via a lap­top that al­ready has an in-built speaker. For units in­cor­po­rat­ing DSC func­tion­al­ity, each de­vice must be paired with the main VHF set on board. Pair­ing is usu­ally done via a web page, ei­ther on a mo­bile phone or com­puter screen. En­sure you pair your de­vice well ahead of time; you will need a good in­ter­net con­nec­tion. Don’t for­get to re-pair for ev­ery new ves­sel you sail on. Test the DSC func­tion against your base sta­tion to check the pro­gram­ming has been ac­cepted. Note that due to dif­fer­ing reg­u­la­tions pair­ing is not pos­si­ble in all coun­tries.

De­vices will send a closed loop DSC alert to your base sta­tion, au­to­mat­i­cally on ac­ti­va­tion. An ‘all ships’ alert can also be sent ei­ther man­u­ally or au­to­mat­i­cally depend­ing on the de­vice. Read your in­struc­tion man­u­als care­fully and from cover to cover. If there is a man­ual process to cre­ate an ‘all ships’ alert – write it down and re­mind your­self reg­u­larly. Make sure any new crew are well briefed on the man­ual process – this may mean open­ing up a jacket and look­ing at the de­vice.

Bat­tery life QUICK TIP

With all of this test­ing and pair­ing the bat­ter­ies on an AIS de­vice may take a bit of a hit. Man­u­fac­tur­ers nor­mally sug­gest a func­tional test no more than twice a year. If you are reg­u­larly chang­ing crews and need to test more of­ten don’t for­get to reg­u­larly check the state of your bat­tery. If you sail reg­u­larly with dif­fer­ent crew and don’t want your jack­ets con­stantly opened and closed, get a spare de­vice to demon­strate how to ac­ti­vate and check them.

AIS de­vices can be op­er­ated man­u­ally, or can trig­ger au­to­mat­i­cally in the wa­ter or when your life­jacket in­flates – check man­u­fac­tur­ers’ guide­lines for cor­rect set-up

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