Expect the unexpected: Be prepared with simple technology that will save your life

The Coast Guard can’t stress enough how important it is for all boaters to have proper safety equipment when the weather turns bad or an unforeseen circumstance arises. Having a means of communication and possession of the right emergency distress gear is essential to help ensure your survival on and around the Great Lakes.

Before heading out on the water, be sure that your equipment works. After a long winter your boat may not be in the best shape either. Take steps to check your boat for sea-worthiness. You can achieve this by having the Coast Guard Auxiliary conduct a free vessel safety check on your boat.

Boating safety education

Coast Guard Auxiliary teaches about navigation

Coast Guard Auxiliary teaches about navigation

Boating Safety Course

Auxiliary teaches about line handling

Dress for water temperature not air temperature

Dress for water temperature not air temperature

It is also important to educate yourself on the proper usage of your equipment and more importantly know how to operate your boat safely. According to a National Recreational Boating survey, 75 percent of those who died in boating accidents were onboard boats whose operators had not received basic boating safety instruction. Boaters who have not taken a boating safety class are five times more likely to die in a boating accident than those who have had safe boating training. So we strongly encourage you to take a safe boating course.

Chart a course

Make a float plan by informing someone you know onshore. Let them know your boating plans. Your plans should include your route, destination and description of boat, number of people on board, and time of return. If your plan should change, inform those who are familiar with your whereabouts.

Be aware of the inland and offshore weather in your area. Though conditions may be nice when and where you launch your boat, but conditions can and often do change. The National Weather Service displays marine weather forecasts regularly as well as announces it over the VHF-FM radio.

Communication is key

Become familiar with your local first responders and Coast Guard units. Be sure to keep a record of their phone numbers and radio frequencies to establish communication if the need arises. Your best means of communication is to have a marine radio onboard. VHF channel 16 is an emergency frequency, like 911 on your phone, which may be used to contact the Coast Guard. Remember that channel 16 should be used for emergencies only. You may also want to consider getting a GPS. In the event of an emergency, knowing your location at all times is important to expedite the Coast Guard’s response. A registered emergency position indicating radio beacon can transmit your location automatically when turned on or submerged in water.

Distress whistle and signaling mirror

Distress whistle and signaling mirror

You can signal nearby boaters or the Coast Guard with these pieces of equipment:

  • ·         Lights
  • ·         Flares
  • ·         Signaling mirrors
  • ·         Horns
  • ·         Whistles
Bob the bird in a PFD

Wear It Great Lakes

Wear It!

Ninety percent of all boaters who drowned were not wearing life jackets. Children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket while on the deck of the boat at all times. The Coast Guard recommends that boaters wear their life jackets at all times. Before getting your boat underway keep in mind: If you lose your boat, can you still float?

Survival preparedness

Keep a survival kit onboard. It should contain a first aid kit. Go one step further and get first aid certified. The more you know how to administer first aid the better you can help others on and off the water. Keep plenty of potable water and sustenance. Long exposure to the elements can lead to dehydration. Dress for water temperature, not air temperature. Hypothermia blankets and towels are helpful to keep you warm and dry.

While federal and state laws require certain safety equipment to be on board at all times, there is other equipment and are steps that you can take. Just because an item isn’t required, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it along if it helps to ease your mind. Educate yourself on your gear and practice safe boating techniques. Remember that boating while under the influence of alcohol is illegal.




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