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Great Lakes Media Contact: (216) 902-6020

9th District Public Affairs

U.S. Coast Guard

News Release

Date: June 29, 2012

Ninth Coast Guard District

Contact: Ninth Coast Guard District External Affairs Office

Office: (216) 902-6020

Mobile: (216) 310-2608

Coast Guard urges boating safety before 4th of July holiday

MILWAUKEE — The U.S. Coast Guard is urging those who plan to recreate on Lake Michigan during the Fourth of July holiday, or at any other time, to take appropriate safety precautions.
 
The Fourth of July holiday and the weekends surrounding it are usually some of the busiest of the year for the Coast Guard.
 
"The weather forecasted this holiday week should be favorable for recreational boaters and swimmers, but Lake Michigan weather can turn dangerous without much visible warning, so always check the marine forecast before going out on the water,” said Capt. Matt Sibley, commander of Sector Lake Michigan. “When boaters follow the proper safety precautions our response times decrease and rescue rates increase.” 
 
The Coast Guard would like to remind boaters to:
 
Wear a personal floatation device/life jacket at all times — The law states you must have a PFD for every person on board, but the Coast Guard suggests you go one step further and wear your PFD at all times when boating. It is much more difficult to locate and put on a life jacket the moment an accident
occurs. 
 
File a float plan and leave it with someone who is not recreating on the water — A float plan is a lifesaving document reminding others where you plan on boating, for how long, and who you are going with. It can assist emergency responders with locating a distressed mariner. 
 
Have a marine band radio and visual distress signals — While many boaters rely on cell phones for emergency communications on the water, VHF-FM radios are much more reliable in the marine environment and work in areas where cell phones sometimes don’t. When a mayday is broadcast over channel FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, multiple response agencies and other nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance. Additionally, in accordance with federal law, recreational boats 16 feet and longer are required to carry visual distress signals such as flares, smoke signals or non-pyrotechnic devices. State and local laws may require further safety equipment.
 
Have a registered 406MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon — When a 406 MHz beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database. This includes the beacon owner's contact information, emergency contact information, and vessel/aircraft identifying characteristics. Having this information allows the Coast Guard, or other rescue personnel, to respond appropriately.
 
DO NOT boat under the influence of alcohol — Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Factor in boat motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray and a drinker's impairment is accelerated. It is illegal to have a blood alcohol content of .08 in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, and a .10 in Michigan.

In 2011, there were 758 boating fatalities in the United States, eight of which were on Lake Michigan. 

"Drowning was the number one reason Great Lakes boaters didn't return from a day on the water in 2011," said Frank Jennings, Coast Guard's recreational boating safety program manager, "the other four main contributors to loss of life were alcohol and drug use, bad weather, excessive speed and inattention, and overloading of the vessel." 

Seventy percent of all boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 84 percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket. Alcohol use was listed as the leading factor in 16 percent of the deaths.

For more information contact Lt. j.g. Brian Dykens at 414-405-6436.

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