Emergency Procedural Words

There are three emergency procedural words that indicate extra importance when you communicate on a VHF radio. In order of decreasing severity and in the order of priority, they are:
  • Mayday
  • Pan-Pan
  • Securité.
(These words were derived from French)
  Indicating Meaning When To Use
MAYDAY   Distress A vessel and/or crew is in grave and imminent danger and require immediate assistance Life-threatening medical emergency; possibility of losing the vessel
PAN-PAN   Urgency A vessel requires urgent assistance Serious mechanical breakdown; urgent but not life-threatening medical issues.
SÉCURITÉ   Safety Important safety information follows Navigational or meteorlogical information and warnings that could be important to other vessels and their safety
Starting your transmission with these words, you will alert other mariners to the seriousness of your situation and to the possibility that they might have to give assistance. The rlevant word is repeated three times in succession so that those who hear the transmission understand what type of emergency you have. If you hear a mayday and you are the most appropriate vessel to respond, you are legally and morally required to lend assistance, but do so without endangering your own crew or vessel.