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Old 02-08-2022, 13:05   #1
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VHF alarm

My VHF is an ICOM IC- M504. A really nice unit. However, it has an issue that I don't think is unique to it. Periodically, as in several times a week, it will receive an alarm. As best I can tell, the alarm indicates a "d⁵istress relay," but I think it also includes weather warnings and perhaps other warnings. When it goes into alarm, it is loud enough to be heard a couple of hundred yards to shore. Or even worse when you are in a marina! The alarm does not have a timeout, so it continues until somebody gets me and tells me that my boat is shrieking. Even if I am aboard, it is annoying. I have contacted ICOM, and they tell me the alarm cannot be disabled.

I have tried to be better at turning it off when we are not actually navigating, although that usually means I forget to turn it on the next morning.

If they were real alarms that required action, I wouldn't be so irritated. But I have yet to see one where I know what action to take. Even the weather alerts are symptomatic of our nanny state overreaction, and rarely indicate significant weather.

Does anyone have solutions to these obnoxious alarms?
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Old 02-08-2022, 13:09   #2
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Re: VHF alarm

Weather alerts can typically be disabled. My Standard Horizon VHFs have a setting for it. There's no way to disable the DSC distress alarms though. That said, if the VHFs are turned off when you're off the boat or sleeping it's less of an issue, as when they're on it's not a big deal to just silence them.
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Old 02-08-2022, 13:10   #3
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Re: VHF alarm

“Does anyone have solutions to these obnoxious alarms?“

I am very interested as well :-)
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Old 02-08-2022, 15:31   #4
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Re: VHF alarm

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Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
That said, if the VHFs are turned off when you're off the boat or sleeping it's less of an issue, as when they're on it's not a big deal to just silence them.
This is the issue. We are actively cruising, in the last 2 months I think we have spent maybe 4 days where we didn't move from the day before. So things don't tend to get turned off, with the exception of the chartplotter which sucks too much power. So we anchor, go ashore, take in the sights, and come back to a dock where people are looking at our boat and wondering why it's making all that noise.

You are correct the while operating the boat it's not a terribly big issue. Pick up the remote mike and lean on the power button and it shuts down. Sometimes I turn it back on, but usually not.
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Old 03-08-2022, 04:27   #5
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Re: VHF alarm

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Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
I have tried to be better at turning it off when we are not actually navigating, although that usually means I forget to turn it on the next morning.

Does anyone have solutions to these obnoxious alarms?
Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
This is the issue. We are actively cruising, in the last 2 months I think we have spent maybe 4 days where we didn't move from the day before. So things don't tend to get turned off, with the exception of the chartplotter which sucks too much power. So we anchor, go ashore, take in the sights, and come back to a dock where people are looking at our boat and wondering why it's making all that noise.

Go to the M504 menu system and turn off weather alerts.

Train yourself to turn electronics off when you're at the dock for overnight, back on again when you intend to leave.

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Old 03-08-2022, 06:40   #6
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VHF alarm

You cannot disable distress alerts as per the ITU DSC specifications, itís essentially a legal requirement if your vhf is active that you monitor distress alerts.
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Old 03-08-2022, 06:51   #7
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Re: VHF alarm

We're not actively cruising all the time, so not the same situation, but we use checklists to remind ourselves what to do when coming and going. Perhaps "leaving the boat" and "getting underway" checklists can help with this and other things. Maybe only old people with bad memories do this
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Old 03-08-2022, 11:44   #8
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Re: VHF alarm

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You cannot disable distress alerts as per the ITU DSC specifications, itís essentially a legal requirement if your vhf is active that you monitor distress alerts.
You are correct, of course. It is most unfortunate that substantially more than 90% of distress alerts are spurious alarms.

Or perhaps I just don't understand the system. I press clear to stop the alarm. Then I go into the menu for messages and I see one that says "distress relay." If I am a conscientious boater, I have no idea what to do with that.
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Old 03-08-2022, 11:57   #9
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VHF alarm

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Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
You are correct, of course. It is most unfortunate that substantially more than 90% of distress alerts are spurious alarms.

Or perhaps I just don't understand the system. I press clear to stop the alarm. Then I go into the menu for messages and I see one that says "distress relay." If I am a conscientious boater, I have no idea what to do with that.


Distress relays are no longer supposed to be forwarded by DSC , only by voice procedure.

The purpose of a distress relay is to rajah the distress to the nearest MRCC land station so they may activate the SAR process. Because using DSC resulted in too many non MRCC stations being alerted the process of using DSC distress alerts has been deprecated.
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Old 03-08-2022, 12:27   #10
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Re: VHF alarm

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You are correct, of course. It is most unfortunate that substantially more than 90% of distress alerts are spurious alarms.

Thinking more on this... We're in your area, and I haven't heard a DSC distress call around here any time this year.

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Old 03-08-2022, 12:29   #11
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Re: VHF alarm

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Thinking more on this... I haven't heard a DSC distress call around here any time this year.



-Chris


I turn my vhf off when not sailing. For marina work I use a handheld. Hence I get less then One DSC alert a day. ( unless my friends are pinging me )
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Old 03-08-2022, 12:45   #12
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Re: VHF alarm

I support things that improve our safety but as of now have only had to deal with the struggles of DSC assisted hearing loss. I worked on a tugboat in Seattle and the owner would collect old, pre-DSC VHFs like they were gold. A lot of commercial vessels have multiple VHFs in the bridge and I have been in the middle of making passing arrangements with other high speed vessels (such as very large and very fast ferries) only to be interrupted in full glorious shrieking surround sound.

You could tie your radios together with your electronics breaker, so flipping one switch will take care of the VHF, chart plotter, down sounder, etc. Or if this is really such a problem put it on a switch by your engine controls.
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Old 03-08-2022, 14:31   #13
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Re: VHF alarm

Quote:
Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
You cannot disable distress alerts as per the ITU DSC specifications, itís essentially a legal requirement if your vhf is active that you monitor distress alerts.
Yes, it is a legal requirement and I've been told by S.H. that they cannot turn them off.

Another similar ITU requirement with worse consequences is an alarm if your VHF radio is not getting GPS. You get 15 mins after turning on the radio to provide a GPS position. No GPS? ALARM! And, while you can silence it, after 4 hours it sounds the alarm again. We used to leave the radio on (CH 16) 24 hours a day in case an emergency call came through, though with our other instruments turned off (including GPS). But after getting awakened every night at about 1:00AM we started turning it off when we went to bed. So now we don't monitor 16 at night. So much for a supposed safety feature brought to you by the clueless ITU in Geneva, boating capital of the world.
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Old 03-08-2022, 14:58   #14
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Re: VHF alarm

In all my time on the water (and we are full time cruisers for the last 7 years, and I worked on the water 8 hours a day for 8 years before that), never, ever, not once, have I heard a REAL DSC distress call. EVER. Just lots, and lots, of false alarms.

I am sure a real distress call on DSC might have happened somewhere, once upon a time, but the whole system seems to be pretty worthless. DSC seems to be a solution in search of a problem.
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Old 03-08-2022, 15:11   #15
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Re: VHF alarm

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In all my time on the water (and we are full time cruisers for the last 7 years, and I worked on the water 8 hours a day for 8 years before that), never, ever, not once, have I heard a REAL DSC distress call. EVER. Just lots, and lots, of false alarms.

I am sure a real distress call on DSC might have happened somewhere, once upon a time, but the whole system seems to be pretty worthless. DSC seems to be a solution in search of a problem.
In the US with untrained vhf operators probably

Sailing around the Ionian , I’ve picked up 4 distress alerts during April through July . All were genuine triggered by Olympia Radio station , my vhf is not on all the time.

I’ve sent a few dsc calls to friends , to me the system works as intended and on longer passages it’s great to dsc ships to talk to the bridge cause they almost always ignore voice calls. Useful too in alerting my buddies by ringing their vhf.

I have yet to receive a fake distress alert ( it’s not a call ) people generating fake alerts should be prosecuted

All vhf radio operators should be trained, so that they appreciate GMDSS and the part DSC plays in that.
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