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Boating Safety

Pre-Boating Safety

A) Generate a float plan and give to a family member. This float plan should include where you are going and your expected return time. This is crucial in an event of an incident where there is poor cell phone coverage and you are unable to contact help.

B) Make sure your boat contains the appropriate number of life jackets. In 2002, 455 drowning deaths could have been prevented if the victim was wearing a US Coast Guard approved life jacket.

C) Make sure there is some form of communication device to warn others in case of an emergency. This may include a cell phone, marine-band radio, signal flares, or whistle.

D) Make sure you observe the weather before you head out on the water. Lake Michigan and other major waterways in Illinois are notorious for becoming treacherous in relatively short periods of time during weather changes. Once you are on the water, continue to monitor the skies for any indication of weather changes.

E) Make sure your boat has plenty of fuel before leaving the dock.

F) Make sure you have a full fire extinguisher on your boat and it is easily accessible in case of a fire.

G) Check onboard navigational lights to ensure they are in good working order.

H) Consider attending first aid and CPR classes. Always carry a first aid kit in your boat. For more information, contact the Pierre chapter of the American Red Cross.


Boating Operations

A) While boating, continue to watch the skies for any indication of changing weather.

B) If boating in unfamiliar waters, reduce your speed to avoid encountering submerged structures such as trees or sandbars.

C) Be conscious of other boaters in the area. When approaching other boats, following general traffic rules. (Stay to the right when approaching a boat head-on, or yield to a boat on the right when crossing paths).

D) Watch for flags on the water that may indicate a diver in the area. These flags are red in color with a white diagonal stripe. You must stay at least 100 feet from these flags.


In case of an accident

A) If a person from your boating party has fallen overboard, do NOT take your eyes off of the victim. Throw a life preserver or rope to the victim. If the person submerges below the water, look to a shore-based landmark so you can tell rescuers exactly where you lost sight of the victim. This is known as the “last point seen”.

B) DO NOT PANIC. Becoming panicked only intensifies the situation and leads to bad decisions.

C) Call 911 on your cell phone or use your marine-band radio and request emergency assistance. If your boat is not equipped with either of these two services, signal other boaters in the area for assistance.

D) If equipped with a GPS unit, relay your exact location to emergency services. This will help expedite the emergency response.

E) When emergency personnel are in your line of sight, use a signaling device such as a flare, horn, or light to alert them of your location.



A) Hypothermia is a condition that exists when the body’s temperature drops below ninety-five degrees.

B) The loss of body heat results in loss of dexterity, loss of consciousness, and eventually loss of life. A few minutes in cold water makes it very difficult to swim, even to keep yourself afloat. In addition, a sudden entry into cold water may cause a reflexive gasp known as torso reflex, allowing water to enter the lungs. Drowning can be almost instantaneous.

C) Your body can cool down 25 times faster in cold water than in air. If you examine the chart below you will see that survival time can be as short as 15 minutes. Water temperature, body size, amount of body fat, and movement in the water all play a part in cold water survival. Small people cool faster than large people and children cool faster than adults.





Wearing a PFD in the water is a key to survival. A PFD allows you float with a minimum of energy expended and allows you to assume the heat escape lessening position orThis position, commonly referred to as the fetal position, permits you to float effortlessly and protect those areas most susceptible to heat loss including the armpits, sides of the chest, groin, and the back of the knees. If you find yourself in the water with others, you should huddle as a group to help lessen heat loss.

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