Coast Guard offers boating safety tips in advance of Memorial Day weekend (VIDEO)

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2014 boating season safety tips 2014 boating season safety tips

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary in New Jersey kicked off National Safe Boating Week on Saturday, May 17 in advance of Memorial Day weekend. The awareness campaign aims to teach recreational boaters the importance of boating responsibly and to help the public have a safe, secure and enjoyable boating season.

The most recent data for the tri-state area waters shows that 202 boating accidents occurred in 2013, resulting in a total of 24 fatalities. Nationwide deaths in boating-related accidents decreased 14 percent, from 651 to 560, and injuries decreased from 3,000 to 2,620, a 12.7 percent reduction from 2012 to 2103.

By just taking these few key steps, boaters can prevent accidents and enjoy a safe and pleasant summer on the water:

Float plans

Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan.

“A float plan is one of the easiest steps to take to ensure your safety,” according to Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City. “It basically involves letting a friend or family member know where you are going and when you expect to be home. If you don’t come home, they will know that they should contact the Coast Guard.”

Official float plan forms are available online at www.floatplancentral.org and state where you are going and how many people are aboard your vessel. They also provide a vessel description, details on your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If boaters are delayed in their anticipated schedule, they are also advised to update the person onshore.

“In search and rescue operations, time is a crucial element,” Ameen said. “As time progresses, the search area expands and nightfall complicates matters more.”

Weather reports

Check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change rapidly, and boaters should keep a watchful eye on the forecasted conditions.

Have nautical charts of the areas in which you are boating, a GPS device and a reliable means of communication onboard the vessel. A VHF-radio is a reliable method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.

Life jackets

Wear your life jacket. In an emergency there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life. There are dozens of different sizes and styles available, Ameen noted.

“The best life jacket is the one you wear,” said Ameen. “A lot of people don’t want to wear the huge orange ones because they are afraid they will mess up their tan lines. But there are so many different options out there.”

Wearing life jackets the entire time the boat is in motion is an important safety measure, he said. “Especially in boating emergencies, it is difficult to put one on amid the chaos that happens when your boat is taking on water.”

Safety checks

Be sure to get a vessel safety check from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. It's better to address discrepancies at the dock than to worry about them while under way, Ameen said.

Auxiliary are volunteers who perform the free safety checks at the dock.

“There is no reason to be hesitant in getting the checks,” Ameen said. Adding that auxiliary members are not able to penalize boaters for a lack of compliance with boating regulations.

“They check for compliance and point out safety concerns while you are still safe on land. They address discrepancies and make recommendations.”

Sober skippers

Ameen said the leading factor in fatal boat accidents in 2012-2013 was alcohol.

“There’s no reason not to have a sober skipper, the same way you have a designated driver,” he said.

According to 2013 recreational boating statistics, alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, responsible for 16 percent of boating fatalities. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

For more information on boating responsibly, visit the Boating Safety Resource Center at www.uscgboating.org.


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