The Last Frontier: National Safe Boating Week 2015

National Safe Boating Week 2015 runs from May 16-22, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard graphic.

National Safe Boating Week 2015 runs from May 16-22, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard graphic.

Today marks the first day of National Safe Boating Week 2015, a public outreach campaign held annually during the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend. This week is designed to help reduce boating accidents and fatalities by generating awareness on the waterways across the Last Frontier.

As the summer months bring in warmer weather, maritime activity on the water increases exponentially. And with more boaters on the water, the chance for maritime accidents, or boaters in distress, rises. These accidents can happen at a moment’s notice and the best way to make sure you, your friends and family, have an enjoyable time on the water is through the proactive mindset of boating safety knowledge and preparation.

Here are a few important safety tips that every boater should know:

Boating safety advocates across the U.S. and Canada have teamed up to promote safe and responsible boating, including consistent life jacket wear every time boaters are on the water, during National Safe Boating Week, held from May 16-22, 2015.

Boating safety advocates across the U.S. and Canada have teamed up to promote safe and responsible boating, including consistent life jacket wear every time boaters are on the water, during National Safe Boating Week, held from May 16-22, 2015.

1. Wear a lifejacket; they save lives. In Alaska, boaters are required to have one Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person aboard their vessel and they must be in serviceable condition. Persons 13 years of age and younger are required by law to wear a life jacket at all times when in an open boat, on the deck of a boat or when waterskiing.

2. File a float plan before you get underway detailing your trip to aid rescuers in the event you are overdue. Sample float plans can be found on the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety website.

3. Take multiple forms of communication devices and extra batteries and chargers. Always remember VHF-FM radio is the primary communications network for the maritime boating community. Enabling the Digital Selective Calling features on your VHF-FM marine radio can broadcast your location and information to every boat within range in an emergency. Also consider a personal emergency beacon and ensure it is registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

4. Check all required safety equipment to be sure it is in good working order. Vessel safety checks by the Coast Guard Auxiliary are free. Trained examiners help boaters review their equipment and give advice about how to improve safety. Vessels that pass the exam may display a safety decal and may be eligible for insurance discounts.

5. Check the weather. Be sure to look at the immediate weather forecast as well as the extended forecast; weather can change in Alaska in a matter of hours. Be prepared for it. The National Weather Service offers local and statewide current and extended marine weather forecasts on their website, which are broadcasted on VHF marine band radios.

6. Dress for the water temperature. Though the air may be warming up, the water is still cold and does not rise above low 50s even at the height of summer. Wet suits and dry suits offer protection against hypothermia in the event of immersion in the water. Thermal protection against the effects of cold water shock can save your life.

7. Boat sober. Never boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Boating safety remains a top priority for the Coast Guard across the state of Alaska,” said Mike Folkerts, recreational boating safety specialist for the 17th Coast Guard District. “File a float plan with friends or family and always carry a means of communication; preferably a marine VHF radio. And most importantly, be sure to wear your life jackets.”

Mike Folkerts and Dave Borg, boating safety experts at the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, demonstrate the proper way to assist a person in the water while using a personal watercraft as volunteer students watch at Auke Lake.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Mike Folkerts and Dave Borg, boating safety experts at the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, demonstrate the proper way to assist a person in the water while using a personal watercraft as volunteer students watch at Auke Lake. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Here are a few 2014 boating statistic to keep in mind:

Alcohol use was the leading factor in 21 percent of the deaths throughout the U.S. throughout 2014. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol use ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Where the cause of death was known, 78 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned; of those drowning victims, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Where boating instruction was known, 77 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instructions. The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats. The vessel types with the highest number of fatalities were open motorboats, canoes and kayaks.

Whether you plan to spend the summer boating, kayaking, or just relaxing by the water, it is important to always be safety minded. Taking just a few moments to go over your vessels equipment, making sure you have the proper safety gear and familiarizing yourself and your passengers, can be the difference between an enjoyable day on the water and a bad day.

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