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Old 05-15-2019, 11:40 AM   #1
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How to identify your boat to EMS ?

Due to a recent event, I have determined that I need to identify our boat, at the docks or out on the water, to local Emergency Medical Services. If an ambulance ride is required identifying the patient on slip E-6 is just about useless to people not familiar with the marina layout.

I thought about mounting a 12 VDC strobe light on top of our radar arch with emergency push buttons inside the boat.

Your thoughts and how other people address this scenario where you may not get a do-over.

If a strobe, what color ??
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:04 PM   #2
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Not a bad idea if the marina is large. Donít use blue since that is for LE. Amber and red is a public safety vessel but used in an emergency probably wonít be a problem. White may get lost in the background lighting.
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Old 05-15-2019, 01:52 PM   #3
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When we needed EMS a few years ago, I hailed local on-water law enforcement on 16. They came to my boat but also called paramedics and directed them to my boat. Much faster than making a 411 call from a cell phone.
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Old 05-15-2019, 01:58 PM   #4
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Due to a recent event, I have determined that I need to identify our boat, at the docks or out on the water, to local Emergency Medical Services. If an ambulance ride is required identifying the patient on slip E-6 is just about useless to people not familiar with the marina layout.

I thought about mounting a 12 VDC strobe light on top of our radar arch with emergency push buttons inside the boat.

Your thoughts and how other people address this scenario where you may not get a do-over.

If a strobe, what color ??
Was there no one extra available to meet the ambulance at the entrance to the marina?

I'd suggest Amber Beacon lights or LED road flares. Plenty of rooftop strobes available for cars at any auto supply or even Walmart.
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:33 PM   #5
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This is something I've also thought about. Last year while getting ready to get under way at Reid Harbor a Coast Guard helicopter came in to one of the other boats to assist in a medical emergency. Considering that there were probably over 30 boats at anchor he did pretty well in locating the correct boat from a radio description. An amber strobe could have helped in a similar situation. Since we normally have only 2 people on board I can envision situations where ongoing radio communications may not be possible.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:45 PM   #6
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I've thought about putting the name of the vessel on the pilothouse roof in big letters for easy identification for rescue aircraft.

For marina identification, I'm thinking either a mounted or handheld spotlight wagging back and forth at them might get their attention. When I see them arrive, I'm guessing a prolonged blast on the air horn will probably get them heading in the right direction.

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Old 05-15-2019, 03:52 PM   #7
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In this day and age of Google maps, find it hard to imagine between a dispatcher and EMS driver, that they can't bring up a satellite image of the marina. If I were EMS, with a smartphone, I should be able to guide the GPS dot on the map to your boat (Northern most dock, 3/4 of the way down, on the South side, Boat Name).

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Old 05-15-2019, 05:18 PM   #8
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In this day and age of Google maps, find it hard to imagine between a dispatcher and EMS driver, that they can't bring up a satellite image of the marina. If I were EMS, with a smartphone, I should be able to guide the GPS dot on the map to your boat (Northern most dock, 3/4 of the way down, on the South side, Boat Name).

Ted
Perhaps that description would have helped but slip E-6 would not. Still the same kind of led flare or beacon you'd use on the highway works on a boat. Easy to just put out when needed.

Many have LED distress lights now instead of flares and they would have worked for his purpose.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:39 PM   #9
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Calling EMS while at marina or yacht club

I asked this question to our custodian about calling EMS to our yacht club in dowtown Vancouver. I particularly asked about how the EMS would get into the club, down to the berth after hours, and how they would find the berth in question.

He said that the club has a fireman's access key lock at the enterance and they have a map of the berths for access at all hours. I imagine all marinas and yachtclubs have this arrangement.

You would have to identify the berth as well as the boat when you call EMS.

If your talking about at anchor or underweigh then normal mayday or emergency call protocols would be in play.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:51 PM   #10
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The larger marinas and yacht clubs probably have an emergency plan. However many of the smaller more remote ones do not. Ours does not have a plan. Having a unique strobe light may help first responders locate you more quickly.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:55 PM   #11
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He said that the club has a fireman's access key lock at the enterance and they have a map of the berths for access at all hours. I imagine all marinas and yachtclubs have this arrangement.
Apartment complexes and office complexes have similar, yet I've seen EMS wondering around searching and looking lost on more than one occasion. Look how often police respond and go to the wrong house or apartment. Anything you can do as an individual boater to make it easier to locate you is a positive.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:58 PM   #12
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Good point about Fire and EMS access after hours. Our marina (private club) put in a locked gate a couple of years ago, and this hasn't come up yet. It is probably something we should look at.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:23 PM   #13
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I'm a newb to trawlers but I do happen to run a fairly large EMS agency that serves hundreds of islands accessed only by boat so this is something I can actually offer an opinion on.

We get this question all the time from vacationers with medical issues that don't know how to identify their location on the lakes. As many have already mentioned, we highly recommend that folks purchase something like this

https://siriussignal.com/shop/sos-c-1001/

I've seen them in action and the work shockingly well. People have left them sitting at the end of the dock and the fire boats can easily see them from hundreds of yards away.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:57 PM   #14
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As a 911 dispatcher, I can tell you that the best thing you can do is know your exact location and how to get there. Whether that means your exact dock and slip number, or your coordinates.

We have several marina's in our jurisdiction and we have maps of each marina in dispatch. When we have to dispatch EMS, Fire, or Police we know how to direct them around the marinas.

If your local police department or EMS service does NOT have a map of your marina, be proactive and provide them one.

ETA: details like sail or power, color, name, any flags, lights, or distinguishing items (i.e. yellow dinghy on davits) are also helpful.
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Old 05-16-2019, 01:28 AM   #15
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As a 911 dispatcher, I can tell you that the best thing you can do is know your exact location and how to get there. Whether that means your exact dock and slip number, or your coordinates.

We have several marina's in our jurisdiction and we have maps of each marina in dispatch. When we have to dispatch EMS, Fire, or Police we know how to direct them around the marinas.

If your local police department or EMS service does NOT have a map of your marina, be proactive and provide them one.

ETA: details like sail or power, color, name, any flags, lights, or distinguishing items (i.e. yellow dinghy on davits) are also helpful.
+1 for if you're at your home marina. Fire departments preplan. That said, they don't always hit every type of facility or renew plans; they're human. The number of calls at a marina means you likely have people with 5 years on that have been to the marina once or twice in their career. They DO love to train and plan though.

I would recommend every marina, yacht club, live aboard, etc invite your local fire department AND their mutual aid to come TRAIN at your marina. Make sure there are correct maps available - find out what form they need. Some are still stuck in 3 ring binders, others have varying levels of technology. Have your dockmaster and maintenance people walk the docks with them, showing them the little quirks and how to find things. Find out what type of shift rotation your local fire department has. Volunteer departments might all train on a particular day of the month. Paid departments in my area usually have a rotation so that if you hold the same training 4 days in a row almost everyone can attend.

Many times your first responders are not boaters. Challenge your fire/ems to train how to take an unconscious person off a boat. It might be something they've never thought of or done before, and will arouse their interest to come visit your marina and learn about it.

Same thing for your police; its usually a lot harder to get them all by, but offer to give them tours and maps. Many times, especially in remote or areas served by volunteer fire departments, your local officers or deputies will be first onscene to a medical call. In larger areas you might have a pretty regular group of people who work your beat; invite them by for dock walks or tours for the same reasons as the fire department.

Some (quite a few nowdays) agencies use in-vehicle mapping for police and fire/ems. These are usually driven off GIS map files of roads, hydrants, property lines, and sometimes building footprints. Consider if your marina has GIS files available of the docks that you can give to your first responders to include in their in-vehicle mapping. In the jurisdiction where I work, the only mapping was what I noted above. It didn't include any of our airport vehicle access roads, ramps, taxiways, or runways, and was a big void - that data was not part of our county's overall GIS data. BUT we had independent high quality GIS data of all of the airport details, and sent it to our dispatch center for inclusion in our in-vehicle mapping, and now all my deputies can see the map of the airport in their cars.

If you don't have the GIS data (and your police/fire/ems can use it), consider this - offer to a local Incident Management Team to come train at your marina. Offer to set up some sort of a scenario for them, and in return, ask if they can create GIS data of your marina to give to the first responders. These teams will typically have GIS experts who create specialized maps for disasters or large scale emergencies, and even if what they create is rudimentary, if you can give your first responders the knowledge if which dock to go down, and approximately where slip E 23 is...
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Old 05-16-2019, 02:30 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJM View Post
Due to a recent event, I have determined that I need to identify our boat, at the docks or out on the water, to local Emergency Medical Services. If an ambulance ride is required identifying the patient on slip E-6 is just about useless to people not familiar with the marina layout.

I thought about mounting a 12 VDC strobe light on top of our radar arch with emergency push buttons inside the boat.

Your thoughts and how other people address this scenario where you may not get a do-over.

If a strobe, what color ??
But if you're not at a marina....

+1 on an accepted SOS light. That is the only currently accepted light for distress by USCG - white flashing SOS. The portable one mentioned can be hoisted up a mast, stuck in a rod holder, etc. It flashes a Morse SOS pattern. Some searchlights have the ability to flash the SOS pattern too - we have a Jabsco searchlight on NWD that does. Here's a link to a video that shows a light that looks a lot like ours and works the same way...



The portable SOS strobe is good, at least at night, it needs maintenance to ensure it will work. The SOS searchlight is also good at night and is pretty visible during the day if they're coming from the direction its pointing. A distress flag for daytime is a must have. We have one on NWD, its with our emergency gear and easily accessible. (I have two gym bags for emergencies. One is the Oh S**t bag and the other is all our first aid equipment.)

In planning for emergencies, I always assume the worst. IF I can call for help, I might not be able to stay on the phone or radio to direct them - a patient might need continuing first aid. So have something you can turn on and forget. AIS is helpful, USCG and some local jurisdiction boats have it, but not all. If they don't, it can still be helpful if there are other boats in the area who do and can help direct responders to you.

This is a place where a handheld radio at the ready is good - you can at least monitor and maybe even talk to the responders on marine VHF if you are with a patient away from the fixed radio. Don't think a cell phone will help EMS find you. Cell phones are notoriously difficult to pin down by emergency responders. As in my previous post for the fire department - you, your crew, and your cruising partners should hold some impromptu training on what you'll do in different emergencies. Our partners need to be able to drive the boat, make radio calls and understand them, use our first aid equipment.

This is also the leap off point for discussion of personal or boat EPIRBs, but I'm not the one to talk about them as I have little working knowledge of them at this point. Its something I plane to explore before the Admiral and I start doing more cruising into remote areas, but we aren't there yet.

The Admiral and I took a cruising class this spring that we thought would brush us up on a few things, and give us some ideas on itinerary planning for going north. One of the gems we came back with is envelopes on board for everyone, even guests, with medical history, emergency contact, and insurance information. Your guests can seal them, and take them off the boat when they leave, but if the worst happens and your mate or best friend is getting hoisted off your boat, that envelope goes with them and could save their life. We're implementing that on NWD. We have guests aboard from other countries and friends that we may not have all their medical history, and we both have medical history or drug allergies that we may not be able to relay to a medic crew before our partner is off to an unfamiliar hospital.
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Old 05-16-2019, 11:09 AM   #17
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One of the gems we came back with is envelopes on board for everyone, even guests, with medical history, emergency contact, and insurance information. Your guests can seal them, and take them off the boat when they leave, but if the worst happens and your mate or best friend is getting hoisted off your boat, that envelope goes with them and could save their life. We're implementing that on NWD. We have guests aboard from other countries and friends that we may not have all their medical history, and we both have medical history or drug allergies that we may not be able to relay to a medic crew before our partner is off to an unfamiliar hospital.
Wifey B: We first became interested in medical histories taking our Medical Person in Charge courses. We do require all persons cruising with us to give their medical histories which we keep on computer and can quickly print if required. Yes, it is giving up some privacy, but when on our boat we have an obligation for their care.

It struck us though as to all the other times and places. Guests at your home. People on their jobs. Universal Electronic Medical Records are the real answer to having information available to emergency personnel and to doctors but the move in that direction has been slow. Some elderly carry flash drives on their key chains. Others carry cards. Some have envelopes like you mention and keep one at home and one in their car, but when they pass out in the mall that doesn't help. There are online sites to maintain your personal records and allow them to be accessed.

HIPAA serves a real purpose of protection, but primarily against employers having access and misusing that information. That's a real concern as they do it every day. However, with good employers it works negatively in that they would make reasonable accommodations under the ADA but can't do so if they don't know the disabilities.

We had an elderly patient have a medical event a few months ago in one of our stores. You think of a situation where no one knows anything. Fortunately, she had talked a lot to the sales girl who normally helped her. Lisa was a good listener and knew what hospital she'd recently been in and for what, knew she carried nitroglycerin in her purse, knew her doctor's name and knew she kept the medical envelope you mention in her car. 911 dispatcher had them give her the nitroglycerin and by the time EMS arrived, Lisa had retrieved her records from her car and notified her daughter. The lady recovered well. Oh, a humorous side note, the daughter said, "Now, I'll never convince her to stop telling everyone her life story."

Clearly we're big on privacy, but especially as you age and have more conditions, privacy of your medical information can turn into a negative. I hope fractalphreak's post makes everyone think of the availability of their information not just on a boat but wherever they might be.

We don't really have much medical history but the little bit we have we carry on miniature flash drives and online, with instructions on access on wallet cards. Mainly was our way to get those close to us to do the same.
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Old 05-16-2019, 06:29 PM   #18
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Don't think a cell phone will help EMS find you. Cell phones are notoriously difficult to pin down by emergency responders.
On the contrary, technology now allows us to pinpoint your location within a 30 yard radius of where the call originated from.

Know your facts before spreading erroneous information please.

In fact, this technology helped me send our fire department boat out to a capsized vessel with three on board, just two weeks ago. He didn't know where he was, but because I had the technology I was able to give approximate coordinates to our fire boat, and they were able to locate him within 10 minutes of the initial call. All were rescued.
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Old 05-16-2019, 08:05 PM   #19
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On the contrary, technology now allows us to pinpoint your location within a 30 yard radius of where the call originated from.

Know your facts before spreading erroneous information please.

In fact, this technology helped me send our fire department boat out to a capsized vessel with three on board, just two weeks ago. He didn't know where he was, but because I had the technology I was able to give approximate coordinates to our fire boat, and they were able to locate him within 10 minutes of the initial call. All were rescued.
Very true. However, in the context of the OP in this thread, Cell phone info will not pinpoint to the boat slip or to a specific apartment, at least with most phones and the receiving equipment most law enforcement has. While not absolutely necessary, still nice to have something extra to assist somehow in locating the boat within the marina. Some marinas would be easy, but imagine Marina Del Rey or the row of Marinas in San Diego. Imagine the marina with separate gates to each dock and located side by side. Maybe it only gets them to the boat 2 or 3 minutes sooner, but that can be critical. Doesn't hurt, but may help to have some form of beacon or flare to identify.
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Old 05-16-2019, 08:18 PM   #20
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Very true. However, in the context of the OP in this thread, Cell phone info will not pinpoint to the boat slip or to a specific apartment, at least with most phones and the receiving equipment most law enforcement has.

Right, but I wasn't responding to the OP, I was responding to fractalphreaks statement about cell phones being notoriously difficult. The fact is, 911 technology ISN'T that unpredictable anymore, and location services are getting better every day. As I said, 911 technology will now triangulate your location to a 30 yard radius - close enough that if you see flashing lights, a quick yell "hey over here" would be enough.

I'm not arguing the fact that flashing lights etc can help, I'm only trying to educate people who may think that 911 services are "behind the times."
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