Coast Guard, partners pull 7 from the water, assist 18 mariners in 12 hours

BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. – A boat crew from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light conducts surf training during inclement weather March 29, 2010. The station is one of 20 surf stations in the Coast Guard.TAMPA, Fla. — Coast Guard crews along the west coast of Florida responded to four separate search-and-rescue calls Tuesday and remind boaters to stay vigilant on the water especially during this week’s inclement weather.

“Due to multiple factors, including weather, Coast Guard crews have assisted 18 lives, seven of whom were pulled out of the water in the last 12 hours,” said Cmdr. Randall Brown, deputy commander of Sector St. Petersburg. “Working closely with partner agencies we were able to assist and ensure these people made it home to their loved ones.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for scattered thunderstorms throughout the region Tuesday that may cause low visibility, rough sea conditions and deadly lightning strikes.

“Our primary concern is for the safety of those on the water,” said Brown. “One of the most important decisions you can make as a mariner is to understand the current and forecasted weather conditions. There are times it may just be best to stay off the water. If you are out in these conditions your preparations and equipment may just save your life.”

Small craft advisories may be in effect in various areas along the coast and average conditions are unsafe for smaller vessels. Before getting underway, boaters should check local marine forecasts for areas they will be transiting prior to leaving the dock.

Boaters should ensure they have required safety and emergency equipment on board and that it is in proper working order. Mariners should take proper precautions to ensure their vessels and loose items are properly secured. Unsecured items, such as kayaks, canoes, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and lifejackets can prompt an unnecessary search that puts emergency responders in undue harm. Non-emergency activation of EPIRBs is one of the leading causes of unnecessary searches. EPIRBs can be activated once they hit the water, instantly prompting Coast Guard response.

The Coast Guard urges boaters to remember these tips before leaving the dock:

-Have working communication equipment aboard your vessel. A VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage and minimal battery life.

-Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan lists where you are going and how many people are aboard your vessel. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.

-Wear your life jacket! In 2015, 85 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.

-The Coast Guard recommends you have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon aboard your vessel. In the event of an emergency on your boat, such as capsizing or sinking, the EPIRB will help alert rescuers your approximate location and expedite a rescue. An EPIRB can take the search out of search and rescue.

-Download the free Coast Guard Mobile app. The app helps boaters request a vessel safety check, call the Coast Guard or 911 in an emergency situation, and shows required safety equipment mariners will need aboard their vessel.

-Obtain a free, no-fault vessel safety check, from your local Coast Guard Auxiliary before heading out on the water. The safety checks are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.

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