Marine radio emergency procedure

An alarm signal is used to attract the attention of operators to the incoming message. It produces a two-toned warbling sound which can be easily distinguished, even in poor reception conditions.

How to call for help

Distress call

Distress messages prefixed "MAYDAY" repeated three times are used only in grave and imminent danger.

Urgency call 

Urgency messages prefixed "PAN PAN" repeated three times are used when you or your vessel are not in grave and imminent danger.

Safety signal 

Safety signals prefixed "SECURITE" repeated three times (pronounced SAY-CURE-E-TAY) are used when a station wants to pass important information concerning safety such as navigational warnings or weather warnings.

Emergency channels

Distress and urgency communications can be made on the following channels:

Radio typeChannel/frequencies
VHF 16 (67 alternative)
27MHz 88 (86 alternative)
HF (frequency) 4125, 6215 and 8291kHz

Radio stickers

Graphical illustration of marine radio channels

If you would like us to send you a VHF marine radio sticker, email your name and full postal address to

Note: MSV no longer produces 27MHz marine radio stickers.

Learn more

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