JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida is the leading state in the Nation for boating deaths, according to the U.S. Coast Guard 2015 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, with 52 total deaths in a year. We also lead the Nation in reported boating accidents, with 671 accidents in a year, more than double the next state down the list, California.
National Safe Boating Week runs May 20th- May 26th and promotes a different focus each day to keep you and your family safe when enjoying the water on a boat. The week is a collaboration between the National Weather Service, the National Safe Boating Council, and NOAA's Weather-Ready National Ambassador. In addition to routine broadcasts of the theme or emphasis of the day over the NOAA weather radios, you may notice NWS staff, TV meteorologists, and many others associated with the effort wearing their life jackets to work to emphasize how important it is to wear a life jacket when you are on the water.
Saturday focuses on distress beacons, Sunday's emphasis is marine forecasts, Monday is all about life jackets, Tuesday addresses boating under the influence, Wednesday explains fire extinguishers, Thursday zeroes in on thunderstorm safety, and the final day, Friday's theme is hurricane preparedness.
Saturday, May 20th: Distress Beacons
Distress beacons are one of the most valuable tools (behind life jackets!) that save lives on the water. They are called Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS). Emergency beacons, through the worldwide offered service of Cospas-Sarsat, aid in the detection, location and Search And Rescue (SAR) of boats, aircraft, and people in distress. When activated manually or automatically upon immersion, EPIRBs send out distress signals, which are monitored worldwide by satellites. Except for the expense of buying a beacon, this system is free. For additional safe boating, some Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are designed for use in water and may be attached to life vests. All 406 MHz beacons should be registered with NOAA. Additional information for emergency beacons can be found here...
Sunday May 21st: Understanding a Marine Forecast
Marine forecasts are readily available, but they are only useful if you understand the forecast and how to apply it to your vessel, planned trip, and course. Understanding a marine forecast is critical to safe boating. Weather and wave conditions can change suddenly, catching boaters off guard and creating life threatening conditions. Take particular note of current advisories and warnings, including Small Craft Advisories, Gale and Storm Warnings which alert mariners to either high winds or waves occurring now or forecast to occur up to 24 hours from now. Before setting out, obtain the latest marine forecast and warning information from you favorite meteorologists on News4JAX the National Weather Service or NOAA Weather Radio. Several days ahead of time you can begin listening for extended outlooks that give general information out to the next 5 days in both graphical and text format.
Monday, May 22nd: Life Jackets%
Before you and your family get out on the water this year, grab a life jacket and "Wear It!" Nearly 85 percent of those who drown while boating were not wearing a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket is one of the most effective and simple life-saving strategies for safe recreational boating. Boaters are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board for every passenger on their vessel. Wearing a life jacket on the water is the single most important thing you can do to stay safe on the water. There are multiple comfortable models of life jackets on the market today- you don't have to be uncomfortable in one of those giant orange ones, you will be more likely to wear a life jacket if it is comfortable, so invest in your safety and go find the style you can move around in and that fits you best.
Tuesday, May 23rd: Boating under the influence
The effects of alcohol and drugs are just as hazardous on the water as on land. Boating Under the Influence, or BUI, affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments can increase the risk of being involved in a boating accident for both passengers and boat operators. Alcohol is a contributing factor in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities. It is illegal in every state to operate any boat or watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Wednesday, May 24th: Fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are one of the most overlooked or forgotten tools on your boating safety checklist. But having a fire extinguisher onboard can turn a potentially deadly situation into a manageable inconvenience. U.S. Coast Guard-approved, marine-type fire extinguishers are required on boats where a fire hazard could be expected from the engines or fuel system. Extinguishers are classified by a letter and number symbol. The letter indicates the type of fire the unit is designed to extinguish. Type B, for example, is designed to extinguish flaming liquids, such as gasoline, oil, and grease. The number indicates the amount of the extinguishing agent contained in the extinguisher; the higher the number, the greater the amount of agent in the extinguisher.
U .S . Coast Guard-approved extinguishers required for boats are hand-portable, have either B-I or B-II
classification, and must be provided with a mounting bracket . While not required, it is recommended that the extinguishers be mounted in a readily accessible location . Consider locations where the extinguisher can be reached easily; for example, at or near the steering station or in the galley or engine room, but away from locations where a fire may likely start.
Extinguisher markings can be confusing because one extinguisher can be approved for several different types of fires (A, B, or C) . For example, an extinguisher marked “Type A, Size II; Type B; C, Size I” is acceptable as a Type B-I extinguisher. Look for the section of the label that states “Marine Type USCG, Type A, Size II; Type B; C Size I .” (It will also contain a USCG approval number .) Make sure Type B is indicated . Hand-portable extinguishers will be either a Size I or II.
Size III and larger are too big for use on most recreational boats.
Thursday, May 25th: Thunderstorm safety
Especially here on the First Coast, afternoon thunderstorms can be a big problem for boaters. Thunderstorms can be a mariners worst nightmare. They can develop quickly and create dangerous wind and wave conditions. Thunderstorms can bring shifting and gusty winds, lightning, waterspouts, and torrential downpours that turn a days pleasure into a nightmare of distress. A lightning strike to a vessel can be catastrophic, especially if it results in a fire or loss of electronics. If your boat has a cabin, stay inside and avoid touching metal or electrical devices. If your boat doesn't have a cabin, stay as low as you can in the boat. Ultimately, boating safety begins ashore with planning and training. Keep in mind that thunderstorms are usually brief so waiting it out on land in a safe building or vehicle is better than riding it out. You can always check the Weather Authority's live radar on our weather app (just search WJXT in the App store or Google Play) or online here... You have the option to animate a loop of the last hour of the radar images, which can help you see which direction the thunderstorm is moving and how quickly.
Friday, May 26th: Hurricane Preparedness
Be prepared for hurricane season. Don't wait until a hurricane warning to secure your boat. You'll be far too busy securing your home to either ride out the storm or evacuate. By the time a hurricane warning is issued, it's too late to be working on a dock safely. Listen to weather forecasts and plan ahead. Haul out your boat or add additional lines during a hurricane or tropical storm watch, which is issued before a warning, 48-hours before the anticipated onset of storm winds.