CG Urges Caution as Hurricane Bill Approaches

Friday, August 21, 2009

With Hurricane Bill expected to pass along the Atlantic coast this weekend, the Coast Guard is stressing the importance of safety for boaters and swimmers during the hurricane season.

Hurricanes can create dangers in the water, such as rip currents and large waves.

The following information is from the United States Coast Guard:
Rip currents and undertows can drag swimmers away from their boat or the beach and lead to death by drowning when they attempt to fight the current and become exhausted. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents cause approximately 100 deaths annually in the United States - more than all other natural hazards except heat and floods. More than 80 percent of rescues by beach lifeguards are due to rip currents, totaling 18,000 lifeguard rescues a year.

As Bill approaches, the Coast Guard urges people to be mindful of the following safety tips:
Stay informed - The public should monitor the progress and strength of Bill through local television, radio and internet. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF channel 16. Information on small craft advisories and warnings can also be found on VHF channel 16.
Evacuate as necessary - If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public is urged to heed evacuation orders. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate those in danger during the storm.
Secure your belongings - Vessel owners are urged to double-check their mooring lines and secure life rings, life jackets and other loose items, preventing their vessel and equipment from breaking free and causing damage.
Be cautious of hazardous materials - If you have hazardous materials on or near the water, you are responsible for any spills that may occur. Take the necessary precautions to secure them prior to any heavy weather.

Mariners are reminded that drawbridges along the coast may deviate from normal operating procedures prior to a storm. They are generally authorized to remain closed up to eight hours prior to the approach of gale-force winds of 34 knots or greater, and whenever an evacuation is ordered.

Tips for swimmers on how to avoid and survive rip currents:
Never swim alone.
Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don't go out!
Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
Don't fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim toward shore or a boat.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim toward shore or a boat.
If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by facing the shore or boat, waving your arms, and yelling for help.
If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 911. Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape.
Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s 2008 recreational boating statistics show:
709 fatalities, 3331 injuries, 4789 accidents and $54 million in property damage.
90 percent of drowning victims - 459 of 510 - were not wearing life jackets.
Only 10 percent of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.

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