Conservation officers remind boaters to follow safety tips

With the warmer weather, Michigan residents and visitors are gearing up for summer recreation in the out-of-doors, including the popular pastime of boating. Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Safe Boating Week, held May 21-27, an effort to remind people to follow some boating safety tips.

Department of Natural Resources conservation officers encourage Michigan residents and visitors to:

Wear a life jacket. More than 80 percent of drowning accidents in the United States are due to people not wearing their life jackets. In Michigan, anyone under the age of 6 must wear a life jacket when on the open deck of any vessel, but wearing a personal flotation device is recommended for everyone.

Avoid drinking alcohol. Nearly half of all boating accidents involve alcohol. Studies show that passengers are 10 times more likely to fall overboard when they have consumed alcohol.

Make sure the boat is properly equipped and equipment is in good working order. In addition to all legally required equipment, such as life jackets and fire extinguishers, always carry a first-aid kit, nautical charts and an anchor. Make sure navigation lights are working properly.

File a float plan. Always let a family member or friend on shore know the “who, what, when and where” of your trip. Let them know when you are expected to be back. Give them phone numbers for the local emergency dispatch center and U.S. Coast Guard in the event you don’t return when expected.

Maintain a sharp lookout. Stay alert for other boats, swimmers, skiers and objects in the water. This is especially true when operating in crowded waterways, at night and during conditions of restricted visibility.

Carry a marine radio or cell phone. Be prepared to call for help in case you are involved in an accident, your boat becomes disabled or you otherwise need assistance. Program the phone numbers for the local emergency dispatch center and U.S. Coast Guard in your cell phone. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged, but be aware that there are often gaps in coverage on the water.

“We also recommend a boating safety course for anyone who plans on taking to the water in a boat or on a personal watercraft,” said Sgt. Al Bavarskas, marine specialist with the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s recreational safety and education programs. “Boating safety classes are offered at different locations around the state and online, making it convenient and affordable.”

For more information on boating safety, including who is required to take a boating safety class, go to www.michigan.gov/boating.

For more information on safe boating, visit the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Resource Center at www.uscgboating.org.

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Learn more about Michigan conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

Subscribe to the weekly conservation officer academy blog, which is posted weekly on the Michigan DNR Facebook page. The blog follows conservation officer recruits through the 22-week training academy as they work toward the goal of becoming Michigan conservation officers. View past blogs from Recruit School No. 7.

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