What to do in an
Like the police, fire and ambulance, we’re an emergency service with the same 999 number.
in an emergency header
Step 1

Call 999

In an emergency at the coast call 999
Step 2

Ask for the Coastguard

Tell the operator that you need to speak to the Coastguard
Step 3

Describe emergency

Tell the Coastguard: what you’ve seen, where the incident is, when it happened, and give us your name

In an emergency

top tip

Using a VHF radio in an emergency

Where there is grave and imminent danger you can contact the Coastguard via a Mayday distress alert using a marine Very High Frequency (VHF) radio.

Option 1 : Distress alert

If your radio is equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) press and hold the distress button until the alarm stops. Wait for 15 seconds. If you have GPS on board, link the DSC radio to the GPS. This will give your distress position.

Option 2: Mayday call
Step 1

Channel 16

Set the radio to Channel 16 on high power.
Press the microphone and speak slowly and clearly.
Step 2

Say “Mayday Mayday Mayday”

Say vessel name three times. Give vessel call sign, and Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI).
Repeat “Mayday”, vessel name, call sign and MMSI.
Give position, nature of distress, assistance required and number of people on board.
Step 3

End call

Say “Over”, release the transmitter and listen to Channel 16 for instructions.
person dialling 999

Using 999 with speech or hearing impairment

The Relay UK service lets deaf, hard of hearing, or people with a speech-impairment alert police, ambulance, fire, or coastguard services by either calling via a British Sign Language (BSL) relay assistant or texting a message to 999 using our emergency SMS service.

You must register your mobile phone before you can use it. Don’t wait until you need the emergency SMS service.

If you see someone in trouble in the water or on the coast

  • If you’re at a lifeguarded beach tell the lifeguard
  • Or call 999 and ask for the Coastguard 
  • Don’t hang up – stay on the line and keep the person in sight
  • Don’t enter the water, stay back from rough seas
  • If the person is in the water tell them to float on their back with their arms and legs out and to stay as calm as possible - remember Float to Live 
  • Look for lifesaving equipment such as lifebelts or throwbags; hold onto the end of the rope before throwing it in 
  • If the person is unconscious and not breathing you may need to start CPR 
  • Don’t try and rescue a person or animal from cliffs or mud - call 999 and ask for the Coastguard


Our safety advice
Visiting the coast can be great fun. From cliff walking and paddleboarding to swimming and surfing, check out our top tips to be prepared and stay safe.
Quick tips
Check the weather and tides before heading out
Wear appropriate footwear and clothing for your activity
Stick to coastal paths
Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back
Consider downloading the SafeTrx app
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