Coast Guard urges caution, preparedness during change of season

1st Coast Guard District NewsNEW YORK -With Spring officially here and air temperatures rising, the Coast Guard is urging mariners, paddle boarders, and water enthusiasts to use caution when returning to the water.

Every year the Coast Guard responds to cold water accidents resulting in the untimely deaths of unsuspecting boaters.

“It was a harsh winter and everyone is looking forward to getting back on the water,” said Cmdr. Jonathan Theel, Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound chief of response. “People want to enjoy the sun and warm air temperatures, but the water is still very cold.”

Despite air temperatures reaching 50 degrees recently, water temperatures remain below 40. Under these conditions, a person in the water will begin to suffer from hypothermia within 72 minutes. However, a person in the water can lose the ability to swim and keep themselves afloat much sooner.

“Survival time in water this cold is based upon many factors,” said Theel. “Surviving is very different than being able to swim to safety. A person’s ability to live through any condition is greatly enhanced by wearing the right safety gear such as a lifejacket or immersion suit.”

The Coast Guard reminds mariners to inspect their emergency gear and review their plans and procedures for several different types of accidents.

“Now is the perfect time to take a look at your emergency preparedness,” said Theel. “Inspect your lifejackets, life rings and flares. Ensure that your radio and navigational devices are functioning properly, have your fire extinguishers serviced and become familiar with your gear. Knowing what to do and having reliable gear will save your life in an emergency situation.”

Theel notes that the same applies to water sport enthusiasts.

“Everyone should have a float plan, which is shared with someone ashore. This is particularly important for those with kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards, which don’t have a marine radio.”

For owners of smaller watercraft, simple identification such as a person’s name and phone number printed legibly and made visible can assist Coast Guard search and rescue crews in contacting the owner if the vessel is located unmanned and adrift.

The Coast Guard recommends everyone in any type of watercraft have access to a lifejacket and know how to use it. Lifejackets with an auto-inflate must follow additional maintenance and inspection requirements to ensure they will work when needed.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers complimentary vessel safety checks as well as public education courses and electronic float plans. To find the nearest Auxiliary Flotilla and for more boating safety resources, visit http://ift.tt/1HMinzL and www.uscgboating.org.

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