It’s National Safe Boating Week. Getting out on the water? Here are some safety tips
It’s National Safe Boating Week, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol Division is offering up plenty of safety tips so you can have fun in the water and make it back on land in one piece.
The top tip that’s useful for anybody in or around water, boat or no boat? Wear a life jacket.
“Situations on the water can change in the blink of an eye and fatalities from drowning are preventable tragedies that can affect anyone in or around the water,” said ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor. “That is why it is imperative for those near the water to wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved and properly fitted life jacket as it is the simplest life–saving strategy for those participating in recreational boating, paddling or towed water sports.”
Anyone in a boat should be wearing one, said ALEA Marine Patrol Division Chief Steve Thompson. Even good swimmers can drown in bad conditions.
“Wearing a life jacket is a key component of boating safety, along with the knowledge and skill needed to keep various types of craft under control in different environments,” Thompson said.
ALEA recommends the following tips for boaters:
- Take a boating safety course. Gain valuable knowledge and on-water experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters.
- Check your equipment. Make sure all essential equipment is present, working and in good condition.
- Make a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information, boat type and registration, and communication equipment on board before you leave the dock.
- Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket – every time. In Alabama, children younger than 8 are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device except when below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
- Use an engine cut-off switch – it’s the law. An engine cut-off switch is a proven safety device to stop a powerboat engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
- Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during the excursion.
- Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2021 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
- Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Be familiar with the area, local boating speed zones, and always travel at a safe speed.
- Never boat under the influence. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.
- Keep in touch. Have more than one communication device that works when wet. VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones and cellphones can all be important devices in an emergency.
By following these tips, you can enjoy your boat, the water, sunshine and fresh air responsibly. For additional boating resources and tips, please visit www.alea.gov.