Last week, the Winter Haven Fire Department rescued three people from a disabled pontoon boat and two people from a capsizing airboat after a storm on Lake Fannie. Aside from chemical burns sustained due to spilt aviation gas from the airboat, no one was seriously injured. Along with the heroic efforts of the WHFD, this good outcome can be largely contributed to the two passengers of the airboat, who followed the right procedures to stay alive during a boat capsizing.
Even the best maintained boat is at risk of capsizing during extreme and unexpected inclement weather, much like the storm that sank the airboat on Lake Fannie. It’s important for all boat owners and their passengers to be aware of protocol during a capsizing in order to stay safe until first responders arrive.
Here are five steps to surviving a capsizing boat in the event of an accident.
Stay with the Boat
If your boat capsizes, do not swim towards shore away from the boat. Instead, be sure to stay with the boat until you are rescued, like the passengers of the airboat. Not only is it easier to float while clinging onto the boat, but a capsized boat is far more visible than people floating in water. This is especially true from overhead, such as from a helicopter, as it makes it easier for first responders to sight and rescue you.
Do a Head Count
During a boat capsizing, make sure every member of your party is accounted for and within the vicinity of the boat by doing a head count, recommends the Boat U.S. Foundation. Check for any immediate injuries that could prevent anyone in your party from being able to hold onto the boat and float until emergency rescue arrives.
Use Your Life Jacket
If you and your party are not already wearing life jackets, be sure to put them on immediately if available. Not only will this help keep you afloat if you become too tired to tread water, the life jacket will enhance visibility from far away.
Some life jackets also include attached emergency lights for accidents like these, but even without the flashing emergency light, wearing a life jacket makes it even easier for rescue parties to find you quickly.
Increase Your Visibility
In addition to wearing life jackets and holding onto the boat, you can further increase your visibility by retrieving floating supplies, such as additional flotation devices, flares, and distress signals, and tethering them to your boat. Anything that can increase your visibility from afar and makes your boat appear larger will help first responders to find you.
Take Turns Signaling — When Appropriate
Working too hard to signal to potential rescuers can backfire, according to the Boat U.S. Foundation. To avoid running out of flares or tiring yourself out, take turns yelling, whistling, and waving to passersby, and only signal out to others when there is a good possibility that someone can hear or see you. Above all else, don’t panic. Be sure you have enough energy to float and hold onto your boat before signaling to others.
Along with unexpected inclement weather, boat passengers can also be put at risk of injury by the negligent actions of another boat operator. If you have been hurt in a recreational boating accident, we may be able to help. Read more to learn how our Winter Haven maritime attorneys can help you get the compensation you need for your pain and suffering after a boating accident. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.