The Coast Guard urges boaters to use extra caution while out on the water this Labor Day weekend.
Coast Guard crews, along with local and state law enforcement agencies, will be patrolling, conducting safety checks, and watching for people boating while intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner, according to a news release.
• Never boat under the influence: It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail time. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to a news release.
• Take a boating safety course: Statistics show that more than 80 percent of those involved in boating fatalities have never taken a boating safety course or had any other type of formal boating education. The public can find courses at uscgboating.org or by contacting their state wildlife or natural resources departments, the Power Squadron or the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
• File a float plan: Leave a detailed float plan with a friend or family member who is staying back. The sooner a party can be reported overdue, the more likely a positive outcome will result. Facts need to be quickly conveyed in an emergency. Your float plan should include information that rescue personnel need to find you. For examples of a float plan, visit http://floatplancentral.cgaux.org/
• Wear a life jacket: Life jackets save lives. In 2017, 76 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, approximately 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious, or exhausted in the water.
• Get a free vessel safety check: Boats that are properly equipped, in good operating condition and safe from hazards are less likely to be involved in accidents and fatalities. Contact representatives of the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron to request a free vessel safety check by visiting www.safetyseal.net and clicking on “I want a VSC.”
• Take a VHF-FM marine radio: Cell phones may lose signal off shore or run out of battery power. They are helpful, but not reliable for emergencies. VHF channel 16 is the marine emergency channel. It should only be used for emergencies.
• Monitor weather broadcasts: Watch for current storm advisories. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. Forecasts can be heard by tuning in to Channels 1 to 5 on a VHF marine radio or by checking the NWS website at www.weather.gov
• Bring a Signaling Device: Have a portable device to communicate an emergency on the water. In addition to a marine-band radio, boaters should have signal flares or an emergency position-indicating radio beacon to alert first responders.
• Download the USCG app: The U.S. Coast Guard mobile app features information most commonly requested by boaters to include: weather, electronic float plans, safety equipment requirements, etc. it also includes and emergency assistance button to call the nearest Coast Guard command center an it’s available on the App Store and Google Play.