Monday, June 1, 2009

Set Sail For Safety

Being out on the water can be fun but it can also be dangerous.

The Marine Unit wants boaters to have a great time on our waterways while staying safe.

CCSO reminds boaters to always put safety first and offers these tips: * Take a boating safety course. Courses are offered through the U.S. Power Squadron and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

* Wear a life jacket.

* Have all your safety gear onboard and serviceable.

* Don’t operate a vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

* For extended or out-of-the ordinary excursions, file a float plan with a loved one or close friend. Click here for a CCSO-recommended float plan that you can print and fill out.
* Take a fully charged cell phone.
Did you know that boating accidents are most often caused by operator-controllable factors such as carelessness, inattention, and navigation-rule violations, poor choices during bad weather, inexperience, and alcohol consumption?

Here are some other important boating safety facts to keep in mind:

* Any boat operator who is 21 or younger and operates a vessel with 10-horsepower or more must do the following: take a state and NASBLA-approved boating safety course send proof of course completion to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and carry their FWCC-issued boating safety ID card and photo ID with them while operating the vessel.

* Wearing a life jacket can make the difference between life and death. According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, 90 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket in 2007. Drowning is the reported cause of death in two-thirds of all boating fatalities.

* It is a violation of Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. A vessel operator suspected of boating under the influence must submit to sobriety tests and a physical or chemical test to determine blood- or breath-alcohol content. In Florida, a vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence if his blood- or breath-alcohol level is at or above .08.

* A vessel owner or operator is responsible to carry, store, maintain and use the safety equipment required by the Coast Guard. All vessels are required to have onboard a wearable Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person. PFDs must be the appropriate size for each intended wearer, be in serviceable condition and be easily accessible. Children younger than 6 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III PFD while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length while the vessel is operating.

* Vessels with built-in fuel tanks or enclosed compartments where gasoline fumes can accumulate are required to carry at least one fire extinguisher (depending on vessel) which is approved for marine use.

* Recreational vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and
Sunrise during periods of reduced visibility such as rain, fog and haze. The Coast Guard’s navigation rules specify lighting requirements for every description of watercraft on its Web site

Watch our boating safety video: