Approach of summer brings focus on boating safety

May 22, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — It’s getting to that time of the year where people are taking their boats out to enjoy a day at the river.

The National Safe Boating Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Water Service are working together to encourage boating safety.

The goal is to encourage the boating lifestyle that is fun, safe and enjoyable.

The first safety tip they give to boaters is to make sure that they have life jackets on board.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, state law requires all passengers 12 years old and younger to wear a life jacket at all times while on board and each passenger must have a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket available.

Fire extinguishers should be carried on the boat at all times, according to NSBC and NOAA.

The Coast Guard requires boats to have at least one B-1 marine fire extinguisher on board. Boats less than 26 feet must have at least one B-1 fire extinguisher on board. Boats 26-46 feet need to have at least two B-1 fire extinguishers on board.

NSBC and NOAA recommend that people don’t operate their boats while under the influence.

The Coast Guard enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI on all boats, from canoes and rowboats all the way to the largest ships on U.S. waters as well as U.S. vessels on the high seas. The Coast Guard does have a few tips for avoiding BUI. It suggests if you dock somewhere to have lunch or dinner and you drink alcohol to wait for a minimum of one hour per drink before operating the boat, take along a variety of cold drinks that are non-alcoholic, bring plenty of food and snacks, wear clothes that will keep everyone cool and plan to limit trips to a reasonable time to avoid fatigue.

Another safety tip from NSBC and NOAA is to be prepared for cold water. That is especially true in the Colorado River, where the air temperature is often considerably warmer than the cold water in the moving stream.

Being prepared for an outing in cold water means being prepared for the possibility of suddenly being immersed in cold water. Cold water drains body heat up to 25 times faster than cold air. When cold water makes contact with your skin, the shock causes an immediate loss of breathing control. This dramatically increases the risk of sudden drowning — even if the water is calm and you know how to swim.

NOAA has a few tips for people before going out onto cold water: always wear a life jacket, wear cold-water protective gear such as a wetsuit or a drysuit; carry an emergency position indicator radio beacon; file a float plan with someone you trust, including information on the trip, boat, passengers, towing or trailer vehicle, communication, equipment and emergency contacts.

The agencies — and other public safety organizations — remind boaters to be prepared for changing weather. Wind, rain and lightning all can impact safety on the water.

“Boaters should always check the weather forecast both before leaving the shore and while on the water as the weather can change quickly,” said Darren Wright, national marine program lead for NOAA’s National Water Service, in a prepared statement. “Boaters should not rely on cell phones for communication on the water, but instead have a VHF marine-band radio for distress calling, ship-to-shore communications, navigation and to monitor NOAA weather radio broadcasts.””

The Bullhead City Fire Department added a few safety tips and reminders as well, part of its May observance of National Water Safety Month.

“Water safety is everyone’s responsibility,” the BCFD said in a release. “Drowning can happen in an instant and is the leading cause of death in young children.”

The department urges all residents — of all ages — to learn how to swim.

“No matter your age, learning to swim is one of the best ways to be safe in and around the water,” the release said.

The department echoed other agencies on the importance of wearing life jackets.

“Adults and kids should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while boating. Non-swimmers and inexperienced swimmers should also wear a life jacket at all times when in and around the water. Inflatable toys can be fun but are not a substitute for U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.”

For more information on water safety, contact the BCFD’s Fire Prevention Bureau at 928-754-2001 or go to www.nationalwatersafetymonth.org.

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