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From life jackets to emergency plans: Some water safety tips from the U.S. Coast Guard

The Island-class patrol boat USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) navigates through the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Meleesa Gutierrez/Released)

The U.S. Coast Guard makes thousands of rescue attempts on the water each year, but not every mission is a success — such as the operation that retrieved three people from the Chesapeake Bay after their catamaran capsized June 18.

Officials said that had to do with the safety precautions heeded by the boaters, including that they were wearing life jackets.

“The life jackets gave us additional time,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Erica Elfguinn, who coordinated the rescue efforts. “That helped us bring them home. Wearing the life jacket was just crucial in this case. They can save your life.”

Elfguinn recommended Coast Guard-approved life jackets designed to keep the head above water and in a breathing position at all times. Wearing a brightly colored life jacket makes people more visible in the water and having a safety whistle attached can provide a way to signal to others, she said.

Other boating safety tips:

Tell others your plans on the water, including where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, and when you intend to return.

Use an emergency positioning radio beacon, also called an “E-PERB” — either on the boat or a personal one that attaches to the lifejacket — to send your position in the water. Those need to be registered.

Boat sober. Alcohol is a leading cause of boating accidents. It impacts one’s ability to respond, to make decisions and to swim.

Stay with a disabled vessel and stick together if possible. That increases the chances of being seen. Sometimes the shoreline is further than it appears.

Dress for the water temperature and not just the air temperature. Hypothermia is a real danger. Even in the summer, water temperatures in the 70s are far lower than a person’s core body temperature.


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