As the summer season arrives in Florida, many of us have been making plans to spend time on a boat, by the beach, or in the pool. While these activities involve plenty of fun for the whole family and friends, there are many risks involved which can cause serious injury and even death. According to statistics taken by the United States Coast Guard, 4,158 recreational boating accidents occurred in 2015, resulting in 2,613 injuries, 626 deaths, and approximately $42 million dollars in property damage.
If you are planning on boating or swimming, the following are safety tips to minimize the risk of injury:
- Wear a life jacket. Whether you’re thrown off the boat due to a collision or your boat capsizes in rough water, having a fitted life jacket on will prevent you from drowning and possibly save your life if an accident occurs. In Florida, children under six years of age are required to wear a life jacket at all times when aboard a vessel under 26 feet in length.
- Have proper safety gear and equipment. This includes a first-aid kit, whistle or bell, a fire extinguisher, grabbing or hooking device, visual distress signals, an abundance of drinking water, and emergency food rations.
- Swim under adequate supervision. Upon swimming in a designated area away from your boat, make sure a lifeguard is present at all times. If there is no lifeguard on duty, then designate someone to be a lookout in order to monitor all of the swimmers in your group, or have a buddy-system in place to hold swimmers accountable for another.
- Have a fully charged cellphone and marine radio with you. If a boating accident occurs, it’s important to be prepared to contact the authorities in case of an emergency. Bring a charged cellphone or VHF (very high frequency) marine two-way radio whit you when boating.
- Prepare your young children when swimming in open water. If you have young children aboard and they plan to swim in the water, you must understand that swimming in an ocean or lake is much different than swimming in a pool. Make sure the children have basic swimming skills, can tread water properly, know how to float, and say away from the water unless they are accompanied by an adult.
- Avoid distractions. You must pay attention to your surroundings and the lives of the swimmers. Not seeing an oncoming boat or inclement weather can be disastrous.
- Don’t drink if you plan to involve yourself in water-related activities. Drinking and piloting a watercraft are never a good mix, just like drinking and driving. Alcohol can impair your reaction time and judgement. It’s necessary to stay alert in order to react quickly when potential danger occurs.