By Rich Johnson
With many of our boating friends buzzing about the Islands
waterways, I ask myself are they ready to deal with an emergency if one arises?
Experts in self-defense tell us dont be the victim, make yourself aware and think
ahead! Professional ball players do it all the time as they visualize hitting the big home
run, catching a touchdown pass with no time left or beating the buzzer with a big shot. Its
the old adage, what do I do if the ball is hit to me?
If you havent thought about these things, then youre
not prepared on the waterways of our area. You should run down a list of scenarios that
can occur, each time you prepare to launch for a days fun in the sun. Whether its
a man overboard, towing situations, fire on deck, what-have-you
think ahead! Prepare
your guests on safety procedures, where your fire extinguishers are, first aid kits,
flares, personal flotation devices (PFDs), radios and how to use them all before you
leave the dock!
one cry nobody wants to hear. Its the case scenario all captains and individual boat
owners fear most. In just a few precious moments, someone could be lost forever! I called
Jim Dunn of the US Coast Guard-Jones Beach Auxiliary and asked him if there were any set
procedures to follow in this emergency. There are a few things we should do,
Jim said. First, notify the helm someone has gone over the side and then contact the
Coast Guard. Notifying the Coast Guard that someone is in the water, whether you have
visual contact or not, puts them on notice. You can always let them know when the person
is back in the boat so they can stand down.
Upon realizing someone is in the water, immediately sound
five (5) short blasts on the horn and throw a Datum. Five short blasts of the horn is the
International signal for danger and tells other boaters in the area to be careful. A Datum
is just an official word for a marker buoy of some sort, even if its just another
PFD, cushion, or whatever you have that will float. The purpose is to mark where the
individual went over, and just as importantly, the item thrown will drift in the same
direction and at the same speed.
This gives you a marked location and a direction in which to
look. If the worst happens, it also allows the Coast Guard to establish a drift pattern
for further search and rescue operations. If there is more than one person on board, have
someone keep an eye on the subject in the water
nothing else! Let those around the
boat take care of the other procedural steps that need to be done. Visual contact must be
kept on the person in the water at all times. This is perfect example why wearing brightly
colored is a good idea.
Jim adds, If for whatever reason you lose visual
contact and cant find them within five (5) minutes, tell the Coast Guard (you
already called right?) you lost contact and send help. This puts the Coast Guard on full
alert and allows them to put things in gear. Dont hesitate on this! Dont spend
20 minutes looking for someone, if you dont see them after five minutes get
professional help! This now becomes a life and death situation and every second counts,
particularly when water temperatures are cold. If you have a LORAN or GPS system on the
boat, hit the save button so the exact location where the person went over is recorded,
again a starting point for a search grid. Tell the Coast Guard your position in Latitude
& Longitude, not LORAN TDs.
When you turn to go after the individual in the water, turn
INTO the direction the person fell over. In other words, if the person falls in over the
port side, turn to port
over the starboard, turn to starboard! Turning in the
opposite direction swings the stern and the engine into the direction the person went
over, which could result in serious injury and death.
Next, upon finding the individual, throw your Type IV flotation device (also known as your
throwable) to them. Each boat is required to have one of these to be on the
waterways. If it is properly stowed, it should have a rope attached to it, but either way,
get the individual in the water something to hang on to. The rope makes it easier to pull
someone in and it helps to have a small swim platform mounted on the stern. If you dont
have one, a portable stowed as part of your emergency gear is a good idea.
If youve never thought about this
possible situation, I hope Ive opened your mind to the reality of such an event. No
one wants to think bad things can happen on the water, but when it does, its in the
blink of an eye so be ready! It takes common sense and good procedural steps to save a
maybe even your own. Prepare yourself and your passengers on each and every
trip! What will you do if the ball is hit to you?