Coast Guard Issues Cold Water Safety Advisory

BOSTON – The United States Coast Guard is issuing a cold water safety advisory for all early spring boaters, paddlers, sailors and fishers on the inland and coastal waters of the Northeast’s First Coast Guard District. With many inland lakes and ponds nearly free of ice and a forecast warm weekend, the call to the open water may be strong – but deceptively dangerous.

“The water temperatures in the Northeast are closer to freezing than they are to being even remotely tolerable – despite the comfortable air temperature,” said Al Johnson, Recreational Boating Safety Specialist for the First Coast Guard District.

“Unless you are properly dressed, properly equipped and mentally prepared for sudden cold water immersion, your chance of surviving a capsizing or fall overboard is extremely poor. Plain and simple: cold water kills!”

Johnson noted by the end of spring 2006 there were a total of 19 recreational boating and paddling fatalities in the Northeast. 74 percent occurred in non-motorized vessels with the exception of one – a boat crash in which the boat capsized and the operator fell overboard and died.

“Of the 19 incidents, only one person wore a life jacket, but he had no way to contact help after capsizing and he died as a result of hypothermia. His lifejacket might have saved his life, but he was unprepared for the cold water. Any accidental death is devastating, but it’s even more so when it could have been prevented.”

Johnson strongly recommends that anyone venturing out on the water at this time of year do a thorough risk assessment, envision the worst case scenario and have the mindset to survive. He also stresses to boaters the importance of wearing a life jacket, not just having one available, and insisting that passengers or paddling partners wear them as well.

“Wearing a life jacket is the first step in surviving sudden cold water immersion,” said Johnson. “Researching and understanding the latest concepts in cold water and hypothermia awareness and protection is the second. Remember, when you’re on the water, you’re in command and your personal safety and that of your passengers is your responsibility.”

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