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Old 03-13-2018, 11:43 PM
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Question Marine radio usage

I recently read a message from a forum of ATV users regarding radio frequencies for recreational purpose. The business providing various types of radios MURS FRS GMRS and MARINE equipment. The provider was suggesting the use of Marine radio emergency channel for communication in a distress call. My question is the legality of using or abusing this frequency in an emergency on land and not water. If someone needed to be rescued and called on a Marine radio for help would there be a penalty for using the radio. Who would ever know what is going on in the desert?
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Old 03-14-2018, 7:52 AM
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I recently read a message from a forum of ATV users regarding radio frequencies for recreational purpose. The business providing various types of radios MURS FRS GMRS and MARINE equipment. The provider was suggesting the use of Marine radio emergency channel for communication in a distress call.
I can easily guess which company, or companies, it is you are talking about. They've been doing this for years. I've run into more than a few people on the trails running radios from one of these companies. Zero licensing, zero understanding, and they generally don't care. Attitude is that if they don't get caught, it's not illegal. Many years ago I sent an inquiry to one of them about the licensing and legality issues, as you can guess, no reply.

Using Marine Channel 16 anywhere but along navigable waterways where the USCG has their radio systems running is going to be hit or miss. You -might- find someone monitoring, but more than likely, not. Relying on that in a true emergency is foolish.

Of course said companies (there's two that come to mind) don't care, and will gladly use the possibility of getting help on Channel 16 in an emergency as a way to sell radios. After all, that's what they are looking for.

Unknowing consumers will eat this stuff up. Some company tells them its "OK", and that's all they need. So much easier to do that than actually put any real thought into it. Try to educate them, and they'll likely turn on you pretty quick.

So, to answer the questions:


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Originally Posted by bojangle View Post
My question is the legality of using or abusing this frequency in an emergency on land and not water.
There is a general feeling that in a true emergency, anything goes. Sort of, but there would likely be some questions asked depending on who responded.

The easy answer is "No", it's not legal.
The not to easy answer is "someone would probably get away with it, but they might have some explaining to do". No one would go to jail, probably no fines, might get a talkin' to.

If my life depended on it, sure, I'd do it. But I'm also unlikely to get to that point. I've been riding for 15 years and I've had some emergencies, as in severe injuries. We learned long ago that we were on our own out there, and being able to look after ourselves was key. That means being prepared. We carry a PLB, personal locator beacon, similar to an EPRIB. Luckily, we've never needed it. I'd never rely on channel 16 in an emergency, and definitely not inland.


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If someone needed to be rescued and called on a Marine radio for help would there be a penalty for using the radio. Who would ever know what is going on in the desert?
Likely no one would know in the desert, but out in the desert, who is it that they are going to call? The USCG systems cover some inland waterways, but not much else. Unlikely they'd get anything out in the desert, deep in a canyon. The chances of getting someone randomly listening would be slim to none. Even recreational boaters are rarely listening on 16.


I've read these threads on ATV/UTV boards, and they are kind of humorous, kind of scary. The lack of understanding on how radios work is rampant. There's some thinking amongst some users that any distress call is going to be heard, doesn't matter what frequency, where you are, etc.

Often it's riders looking for a cheap communications solution (although these companies are never "cheap") The Channel 16 thing is a disservice to the end users. For a company to suggest that it can be used anywhere to get help is probably verging on negligence. It's definitely false advertising.

I've seen these guys out on the trail a few times. Ran into one guy that was riding a $25,000 machine by the time you added in all the accessories. He was wearing shorts, a t-shirt and flip/flops. No helmet, zero safety gear. He came up on us and was looking for a gas station, we were 20+ miles from the nearest one, and he was running on fumes. We spotted him a few gallons, gave him a map (he had none, but he had a fancy mapping GPS system that he: 1. didn't know how to use, 2. didn't have local charts loaded). We ran into him a few days later, still not prepared, but now had his wife and dog with him. He "assumed" his radio would talk to ours, but it wouldn't, because he didn't have a microphone for it. The system was set up for in-helmet speaker/mics, but he didn't have the helmets….

So, short version is that these guys barely know what end of the radio to talk into and are probably at higher risk of poking their eye out with the antenna than actually know how to get help in an emergency.

But, hey, if it makes them feel secure, that's worth something, I guess.
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Old 03-14-2018, 7:56 AM
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Old 03-14-2018, 9:28 AM
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I am inclined to agree with you. Ignorance is bliss. Maybe the Darwinian theory justifies the actions of those who are looking for a simple answer and a short cut to oblivion.
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Old 03-14-2018, 9:42 AM
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I am inclined to agree with you. Ignorance is bliss. Maybe the Darwinian theory justifies the actions of those who are looking for a simple answer and a short cut to oblivion.
I wish them a rapid journey.

What's interesting, if you go look at the websites for the offending radio dealers is that they sell some interesting products.

There are the prerequisite Cheap Chinese Radios.
There are some decent 50 watt VHF/40 watt UHF commercial radios, often mid tier Icom, Vertex, etc.
Then they'll sell a few 100 watt VHF or UHF radios, used to be a lot of Kenwood TK-790's/TK-890's.

With zero/limited understanding, some of these guys are just sure they need the high power radios. You know the attitude, "go big or go home"….
Well, just imagine a 100 watt radio connected to an antenna a few inches away from your skull on a UTV roll cage. Again, no understanding of radio, just that you've got to have the biggest stick or your friends will laugh at you, or so it would seem.

Even ran into one guy on this site that was running a 100 watt TK-890 on an ATV, with the antenna mounted on the cargo rack, a few inches from the rider. He was convinced he needed all that power and wouldn't listen to anyone trying to help him. Big stick, that guy had. I'm sure all his friends were impressed.

Now, thanks to these companies, they'd program in MURS, Marine VHF, and a bunch of frequencies the user wasn't licensed for, all into a 100 watt radio. Even on the UHF side, GMRS and FRS running 100 watts. You know, just in case of an emergency.

I'm usually all for helping these guys out, but some of them are so thick skulled. Wrong tool for the job, zero understanding on how the stuff work, just bragging rights that they have the 100 watt radio in their buggy.

If it wasn't for innocent bystanders or the fact that many of these guys are running around with their wife/kids with them, I'd be happy to let Darwin take his course. But all too often these guys screw up and take a few innocent people along with them.

We gave up keeping track of how many of these guys we've bailed out along the trail with gas, water, maps, directions, etc. At least they tend to ride in groups.
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Old 03-14-2018, 2:06 PM
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If you really think you're going to be caught out in the boonies somewhere you should carrry a PLB.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerge...beacon_station
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Old 03-14-2018, 4:02 PM
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If you really think you're going to be caught out in the boonies somewhere you should carrry a PLB.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerge...beacon_station

Exactly, and that's what I mentioned above. We carry a PLB with us on every ride. Only reliable way to get help.

Riders will spend $1000 or more on these overpriced radios in the name of "emergencies", but overlook the $220 legal/easy/correct option.
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