Northeast Times

Kids Stuff: Boating safety helps save lives

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By Wil­li­am Feld­man

Wel­come to Kids Stuff. Today’s column in­cludes in­form­a­tion about Na­tion­al Safe Boat­ing Week, which is cel­eb­rated in 2011 from May 21 to 27.

With sum­mer fast ap­proach­ing, I thought this would be a great time to re­mind every­one about wa­ter safety.  After all, Me­mori­al Day is con­sidered by most to be the be­gin­ning of the re­cre­ation­al boat­ing sea­son. The U.S. Coast Guard Aux­il­i­ary is team­ing up with oth­er boat­ing safety or­gan­iz­a­tions to take the boat­ing safety mes­sage to the pub­lic.

THE BA­SICS

The Na­tion­al Safe Boat­ing Coun­cil was or­gan­ized in Septem­ber 1958 un­der the name Na­tion­al Safe Boat­ing Com­mit­tee (NS­BC). It has a mem­ber­ship of more than 330 U.S. and Ca­na­dian or­gan­iz­a­tions, all with an in­terest in boat­ing safety and edu­ca­tion.

Boat­ing edu­ca­tion courses teach the reg­u­lat­ory and stat­utory rules for the safe op­er­a­tion and nav­ig­a­tion of re­cre­ation­al boats, ac­cord­ing to the NS­BC Web site, ht­tp://www.safe­boat­ing­coun­cil.org

Here are some im­port­ant stat­ist­ics from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (ht­tp://www.cdc.gov/fea­tures/Boat­ing­Safety) and the boat­ing in­dustry (ht­tp://www.boat­ing-in­dustry.com/out­put.cfm?id=2745955):

• In 2008, 3,330 people were in­jured, and more than 700 died, in boat­ing in­cid­ents. Of those who drowned, 90 per­cent were not wear­ing life jack­ets.

• In 2008, 72 per­cent of fatal boat­ing in­cid­ent vic­tims drowned.

• Al­co­hol use was the lead­ing con­trib­ut­ing factor in fatal boat­ing in­cid­ents.

ull; In 2009, the Coast Guard coun­ted 4,730 re­cre­ation­al boat­ing ac­ci­dents in­volving 736 deaths, 3,358 in­jur­ies and ap­prox­im­ately $36 mil­lion of prop­erty dam­age.

• Al­most three-fourths of all fatal boat­ing ac­ci­dent vic­tims drowned, and of those, 84 per­cent were not wear­ing life jack­ets.

From the above stat­ist­ics, one can sadly see the num­bers have in­creased slightly. The num­bers should be de­creas­ing.

HOW TO AVOID TROUBLE

Tips for pre­vent­ing boat in­jur­ies and deaths:

1. When prop­erly fit­ted, life jack­ets can re­duce drown­ings and should be used by all boat oc­cu­pants.

2. Avoid al­co­hol­ic bever­ages while boat­ing. Al­co­hol af­fects judg­ment, vis­ion, bal­ance and co­ordin­a­tion. Al­co­hol in­volve­ment was a factor in about 25 per­cent of all re­por­ted boat­ing deaths, which show an­oth­er sin of drink­ing and driv­ing.

3. Com­plete a boat­ing edu­ca­tion course. However, edu­ca­tion­al re­quire­ments do vary from state to state, so make sure you know the law — and obey it! More than 40 per­cent of re­por­ted in­cid­ents in 2005 in­volved op­er­at­or con­trol. The primary causes of in­cid­ents were care­less­ness, op­er­at­or in­at­ten­tion, op­er­at­or in­ex­per­i­ence and un­safe speeds.

4. Par­ti­cip­ate in the Ves­sel Safety Check (VSC) pro­gram, a free pub­lic ser­vice provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Aux­il­i­ary and U.S. Power Squad­ron vo­lun­teer or­gan­iz­a­tions pro­mot­ing boat­ing safety. The ves­sel ex­am­iner is a trained spe­cial­ist and mem­ber of the United States Power Squad­rons or the U.S. Coast Guard Aux­il­i­ary. Vo­lun­teers check safety equip­ment and provide in­form­a­tion about equip­ment pur­pose, safety pro­ced­ures and ap­plic­able reg­u­la­tions.

For more in­form­a­tion on the VSC pro­gram, vis­it www.ves­selsafe­tycheck.org on the In­ter­net.

5. I am still in shock from read­ing that an in­di­vidu­al can get car­bon monox­ide (CO) pois­on­ing on a boat. I al­ways as­sumed this harm­ful gas only af­fected people in­side a home or car. I nev­er thought of this danger on a boat or wa­ter ves­sel, but it’s real.

BE­WARE THE UN­KNOWN KILLER!

All in­tern­al com­bus­tion en­gines emit CO, an odor­less, col­or­less, pois­on­ous gas. In the early stages, the symp­toms of CO pois­on­ing are sim­il­ar to sea­sick­ness, and CO can kill in a mat­ter of minutes.

Sig­ni­fic­ant CO pois­on­ing can in­clude the use of air con­di­tion­ing powered by an on­board mo­tor gen­er­at­or; op­er­a­tion of any gas­ol­ine-powered en­gine while docked and/or raf­ted with oth­er boats’ op­er­at­ing en­gines; swim­ming or float­ing near an id­ling boat en­gine; or be­ing in the cab­in of the boat, un­der­wa­ter, with im­prop­er vent­il­a­tion.

To avoid CO pois­on­ing, be aware of the risk, en­sure suf­fi­cient vent­il­a­tion, prop­erly in­stall and main­tain equip­ment, and use CO de­tect­ors, es­pe­cially in liv­ing and sleep­ing areas.

Keep­ing the wa­ter­ways safe is cru­cial for all boat­ers. In fact, it’s so im­port­ant that there is a boat safety pledge that in­di­vidu­als can fill out every time they go out on the wa­ter. Maybe this pledge concept — as well as the one con­cern­ing the dangers of tex­ting and driv­ing — will be in­tro­duced and ad­min­istered to all high schools and col­leges na­tion­wide as a friendly re­mind­er. After all, you are the only one that can con­trol your ac­tions.

The U.S. Coast Guard, in its role as the des­ig­nated Na­tion­al Re­cre­ation­al Boat­ing Safety Co­ordin­at­or (ht­tp://www.uscg­boat­ing.org), is a won­der­ful re­source, too. Their mis­sion is to “min­im­ize the loss of life, per­son­al in­jury, prop­erty dam­age, and en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact as­so­ci­ated with the use of re­cre­ation­al boats, through pre­vent­ive means, in or­der to max­im­ize safe use and en­joy­ment of U.S. wa­ter­ways by the pub­lic.”

For the sake of pub­lic safety, people of all ages should clip out the pledge card on this page, and al­ways hon­or your pledge!

If you want to print the pledge right from the In­ter­net, vis­it www.safe­boat­ing­coun­cil.org/pledge/in­dex.htm

* * *

An­swer to the cryp­to­gram in my last column:

LIKE THE COM­MER­CIAL STATES, YOU HAVE TO LOVE THE ARTS IN PHIL­ADELPHIA

Colum­nist Wil­li­am Feld­man can be con­tac­ted by e-mail at wmkid­scolumn@aol.com

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