HOUSTON - The United States Coast Guard reminds boaters to be cautious this Labor Day weekend. Historically, Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest boating weekends of the year.
Each year, on average, 700 people die in boating-related accidents nationwide. A majority of the victims were not wearing personal flotation devices. All recreational boats must carry one wearable PFD (Type I, II, III or Type V PFD) for each person aboard. Any boat 16-feet and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must also carry one throwable PFD (Type IV PFD).
Boating under the influence is just as deadly as drinking and driving a motor vehicle. In fact, a boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink. Alcohol accounts for nearly one-third of all recreational boating fatalities.
Mariners are encouraged to invest in a VHF-FM radio as their primary means of distress alerting on the water. When a MAYDAY is sent out via VHF-FM radio it is a broadcast, not just one party is receiving the distress call; any nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance. VHF-FM radios are manufactured today with Digital Selective Calling (DSC). This feature provides the mariner with an emergency feature that will send a distress with the vessel's information and Global Positioning System (GPS) location at the press of a button. It is important to note that the DSC radio must be properly registered with an MMSI number through Boat US and the radio must be properly interfaced with the GPS in order to send an accurate position to assist emergency responders to respond to the distress.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) can greatly assist rescuers in quickly finding a boater in distress. Boaters must have a digital 406 MHz EPIRB because the 121.5 and 243 MHz EPIRBs are prohibited from use in both commercial and recreational watercraft. Only the 406 MHz beacons will be detected by the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System which provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world. When a 406 MHz beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database. This includes the beacon owner's contact information, emergency contact information, and vessel/aircraft identifying characteristics. Having this information allows the Coast Guard, or other rescue personnel, to respond appropriately. In the U.S., users are required by law to directly register their beacon in the U.S. 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database at: http://www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov/ or by calling (888) 212-SAVE. Other users can register their beacon in their country's national beacon registration database or, if no national database is available, in the International Beacon Registration Database at https://www.406registration.com/.
One of the best preparations a boater can make before going out on the water is to write up a float plan. A float plan is a lifesaving device on paper that provides emergency responders with valuable information they need in case the boater finds themselves in danger. A float plan should be completed and left with someone who is not going with the recreational boaters. Click the following link for more information.
The U.S. Coast Guard also recommends that all recreational boaters (including personal watercraft users) take advantage of the free Vessel Safety Check (VSC) program every year. VSCs are offered by experienced members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons®, two of the nation's premier volunteer boating safety organizations. A VSC is your best way of learning about problems that might put you in violation of state or federal laws or, worse, create danger for you or your passengers on the water. Go to www.vesselsafetycheck.org and click on "I Want a VSC" to find a Vessel Examiner near you.