3 Indispensable Boat Safety Equipment Items to Save Lives
Music videos make the nautical lifestyle seem so glamorous. Like all you need for a good time are your swimming trunks and flippy floppies. But while spending a day or more out on the water can be wonderful, it's not without its hazards. In 2016, over 700 people in the United States perished from boating accidents. Of this number,80% were caused by drowning. The majority were boaters who were not wearing life jackets or PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices), which are a crucial part of boat safety equipment listed as a United States Coast Guard's requirement. So before you start choosing what shades to wear, it's important to make sure your boat is equipped with the proper equipment.
Basic Federal Requirements for Recreational BoatsThese USCG's federal requirements are only a starting base for boat safety equipment. There are many more items you can add to your boat, or bring along with you, to ensure you and your family are as safe as possible and prepared for any situation. These are the basics:
- State Registration
- State Numbering
- Certificate of Documentation
- Visual Distress Signals
- Fire Extinguishers
- Throwable Type IV Device
- Sound Producing Devices
- Backfire Flame Arrestor
- Navigational Lights
- Oil Pollution Placard
- Garbage Placard
- Marine Sanitation Devices
- Navigation Rules
The 3 Life saving Boat Safety Equipment ItemsIn my experience, in addition to the boat safety equipment required, there are 3 other crucial items that should find their way aboard your vessel: Carbon monoxide detector, VHF radio and an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon). Why do I think this equipment should be added to your packing list this boating season? Read on to find out.
1. Carbon Monoxide DetectorCarbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas.When inhaled, it can be fatal within minutes. The source of carbon monoxide on boats is often from engines, but it can also be from generators. I clearly remember the day my younger two-year-old brother was poisoned by carbon monoxide from a problem with our family boat's generator. My family and I were traveling on our boat for the weekend, along with family friends on their own boat. My father was up on the bridge driving while my mother, brother and I were napping in the cabin after being lulled to sleep by the smooth ride. An hour into the trip, my father put the boat on autopilot and came downstairs in the cabin to grab a drink. When he entered, he saw his sleeping family, but the peaceful scene soon turned to chaos when he realized his son wasn't breathing. My father quickly shook my mother awake, picked up his VHF radio and made a call to the Coast Guard. Our friends heard his distress call. One of them, a doctor, immediately cut his engines, dove into the water and swam to our boat to begin artificial respiration. The Coast Guard arrived within 10 minutes and swept my mother and brother away to the nearest hospital. Though my parents suspected CO was the reason for my brother's lack of breathing, they didn't know for sure until it was confirmed at the hospital. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending, which iswhy all boat cabins should have a marine-grade carbon monoxide detector.
Best Marine Carbon Monoxide DetectorsNow a mother of a two-year-old, I wouldn't travel on a boat without knowing it had a carbon monoxide detector installed. I highly recommend the MTI Industry Safe-T-Alert series. MTI Industries offers Carbon Monoxide detectors in both a flush mount and a surface mount setting. Here are a few variations:
2. Marine VHF Radio
We live in a world of constant communication. From our smartphones, we can connect with someone in seconds by calling, video chatting, tweeting or poking them on Facebook. When you're out on the water, though, it's smart to carry a Marine VHF Radio in addition to your cell phone.
VHF radios are used to communicate with other boats on the water, as well as land-based harbors and marinas. Most importantly, they communicate with the Coast Guard and surrounding vessels in times of distress. VHF radio Channel 16 is dedicated as the distress channel, and there are three major distress calls you'll hear:
- May Day You've heard the phrase may day on TV shows or in movies. In reality, it's not something to say lightly. May Day calls are the most urgent and mean a person or vessel is in immediate life-threatening danger.
- Pan Pan This call means a vessel or passenger needs help, but they're not in any imminent danger. Pan Pan situations can lead to May Day situations depending on the circumstances and how quickly help arrives.
- SecurityThiscall is like a heads up and is the least serious of the three distress calls. Security calls warn boaters of inclement weather or navigational hazards.
Fixed Mount VHF Radios
- Uniden UM380(Check Price on Amazon)
- Standard Horizon GX2200
- ICOM M506
Best Handheld VHF Radios
- Standard Horizon HX870 (Check Price on Amazon)
- Uniden MHS75 (Check Price on Amazon)
- Cobra MRHH350FLT (Check Price on Amazon)
It's scary to think, but some boating accidents make it impossible to use a VHF radio to issue a distress call (even if you have one on board). This is why the last piece of boat safety equipment I highly recommend is an EPIRB or Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon. As the name suggests, an EPIRB sends out a signal to search and rescue teams, notifying them of your location in the event of an emergency. EPIRBs can either activate automatically when submerged to a certain depth, or manually, depending whether the EPIRB is a Category I or II.
Best Category I EPIRBs (Automatic Release)
- ACR GlobalFix iPro 406 28460 (Check Price on Amazon)
- ACR GlobalFix V4 Cat 1 EPIRB (Check Price on Amazon)
Best Category II EPIRBs (Manual Release)
- ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 (Check Price on Amazon)
- Ocean Signal SafeSea E100 (Check Price on Amazon)