FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – May is National Water Safety Month, which also includes Water Safety Week May 22-28.
Boating-related incidents are responsible for an average of 350 deaths each year nationwide, including an average of 14 boating-related fatalities in Missouri, according to statistics from the Missouri Water Patrol and the United States. US Coast Guard. But there are a number of basic steps boat operators and passengers can take to keep them safe.
For most experts, boating safety begins when everyone on board wears life jackets. For Don Busbice Jr., director of security for the US Army Garrison at Fort Leonard Wood, the proper use of personal flotation devices is his # 1 boating safety tip.
âWear a US Coast Guard approved life jacket when sailing,â Busbice said. âMake sure older boaters choose a life jacket that is suitable for the weight and water activity of the younger ones. For younger children, choose a PFD with both a collar for head support and a strap between the legs. “
Officials from the National Safe Boating Council and the National Weather Service, who are the two main co-sponsors of Safe Boating Week this year, agree on the importance of life jackets. In fact, the theme of this year’s campaign is simply âWear Itâ.
âWe believe that wearing a life jacket is the easiest way to keep you and your family safe while enjoying a day on the water,â said Yvonne Pentz, Director of Communications for NSBC.
Under Missouri law, all vessels 16 feet in length and over must have a Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board as well as at least one approved disposable device. While boats under 16 feet are only required to have a disposable PFD under state law, federal law states that a portable PFD is required for each person on board, and all PFDs must be stored properly.
Know the rules
Busbice advises both new and experienced boaters to take a boating course.
â(All boaters) should familiarize themselves with the rules of navigation of the road. Boating safety courses are offered locally, are inexpensive and often taken in one day, in person or online, âhe said.
The Missouri Water Patrol offers boating safety courses, with registration available on its website. By state law, training is required for boat operators aged 37 and under.
The Missouri Boaters Education Act came into effect on January 1, 2005. The law states that anyone born after January 1, 1984 must pass a Missouri Boaters Education course or test before operating a boat. motor on state lakes, âsaid Busbice. “The Nautical Patrol Division charges a fee of $ 15 for a boater ID card, but there is no charge to take a classroom course taught by a Marine.”
Another key safety measure that boaters can take is to avoid alcohol and other intoxicants while operating any type of watercraft.
âMissouri law prohibits operating a vessel while intoxicated as a result of alcohol or any combination of alcohol, controlled substances or drugs,â Busbice said. âBy operating a vessel in Missouri waters, you have consented to be tested for alcohol or drugs at the request of a law enforcement officer. Alcohol and drugs cause loss of balance, blurred vision, poor coordination, impaired judgment, and slower reaction times. Alcohol is a major contributor to boating accidents and fatalities. “
Here are some other boating safety tips from the USAG Safety Office:
– Use common sense. Work at a safe speed at all times, especially in crowded areas. Stay alert and avoid large ships and personal watercraft whose ability to stop or turn may be limited.
– Use a pre-departure checklist. This is a useful way to check the boat and make sure the correct equipment is on board.
– Be careful. Check the local weather, route and destination and water conditions before departure to make sure it is safe to get out on the water.
– Appoint an assistant skipper. Make sure that several people on board are familiar with all aspects of the handling, operations and general safety of the boat. Just in case the main operator is incapacitated, it ensures that someone else is able to bring the boat back to shore.
– Develop a flotation plan. Whether you choose to let a family member know or the staff at your local marina, let someone else know where you are going and how long you are going to be away. A floating plan may include the following information: name, address and telephone number of the tour leader and passengers; type of vessel and registration information; travel itinerary; and types of communication and signaling equipment on board, such as a radio beacon indicating the emergency position or a personal locator beacon.
– Never swim in a marina or other areas where boats are connected to a shore power outlet. Stray power in water can create a risk of electric shock.
– Stay clear of the engine. Boat captains must wear the lanyard for the boat’s engine cut-off switch at all times. Watch the propeller area when people are in the water. Never allow passengers to board or exit the water of your boat when the engines are running or idling. Extra care should be taken around boats towing skiers or tubers.
With masking and other mitigation measures varying from community to community, boaters may take some special considerations to minimize risk in 2021, Busbice said.
“To ensure health and safety in the midst of the pandemic, it is best to only go out on a boat with the people in your household or to quarantine a ‘capsule’,” he said. âRemember to take local regulations into account. Many places have limits on the maximum number of people allowed to gather in groups. These same rules apply even on a boat. If you plan to go boating with people outside your home, it is best to wear a face mask while you are together. Make sure that the number of people on the boat does not exceed the space needed to safely maintain social distance from each other. Wear a face mask and distance yourself when entering dockside restaurants, boat launches, fuel pumps and marinas. “
More boating safety tips, fact sheets and ways to participate in Safe Boating Week are available online here.