MIAMI, FL (WFLX)-- The Coast Guard urges Florida boaters to use extra caution while enjoying the Labor Day weekend.
Coast Guard law-enforcement crews will be patrolling, conducting safety checks, and watching for people boating while intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner.
The Coast Guard asks the boating public to monitor weather broadcasts and be aware of current storm advisories. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. Forecasts can be heard by tuning in to Channels 1 through 5 on a VHF marine radio or by checking the NWS website at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/.
Please consider these safety tips for boaters before leaving the dock:
- Wear a life jacket. Life jackets save lives. In 2012, almost 71 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost 85 percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket. Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious and exhausted in the water.
- Take a VHF-FM marine radio. Cell phones often lose signal and run out of batteries after a day on the water. They are helpful, but not reliable for emergencies.
- Register your EPIRB. Response time is the key to survival. The sooner help arrives, the better the chances for survival. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) provide the fastest and most accurate way the Coast Guard has of locating and rescuing persons in distress.
- File a float plan. There are too many facts that need to be accurately remembered and conveyed in an emergency situation. Without a float plan, boaters are counting on someone else, a friend, neighbor, or family member to remember detailed information that rescue personnel need in order to find you. Click here for an example of a float plan, and for more information, visit www.floatplancentral.org.
- Never boat under the influence (BUI). Intoxicated boaters can face both federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
- Have a vessel safety check. It's a great way of learning about problems that might put boaters in violation of state or federal laws, or create danger for boaters and passengers on the water.
- Take a boating safety course. Boaters can learn the basics about their vessels and the "rules of the road" in America's Boating Course, a new electronic boating course produced through a partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons. For more information, visit www.americasboatingcourse.com.
Boating safety information and the current boating safety statistic report is available on the U.S. Coast Guard boating safety web site at: www.uscgboating.org.