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Safety Office urges boaters to play it safe this Summer

by Chris Anderson
6th Air Mobility Wing, Safety Office

The U.S. Coast Guard encourages all boaters to take their formal boating safety course.

photo by Senior Airman Robin Drake

Boating season is well underway here in the Tampa Bay area. Here in sunny Florida we have warm weather to support boating all year round. Regrettably, every year Air Force members and their dependents are killed or seriously injured in boating mishaps throughout the state of Florida and our entire country.

The greater part of mishaps could have been prevented if the boat operators had taken the time to learn and adhere to proper operating procedures, become familiar with federal, state and local laws and had not been under the influence of alcohol.

To help prevent boating mishaps the 6th Air Mobility Wing safety office has designated April as MacDill's Boating Safety Month. There will be a safety campaign at the Base Exchange Wednesday.

The goal is to help protect and educate the MacDill family on safe recreational boating procedures and the hazards involved with boating. There will be plenty of educational literature, a static boat display and a member of the U.S. Coast Guard will be present to answer technical questions and to sign up personnel for vessel safety checks.

A review of the U.S. boating mishap statistics developed by the Coast Guard has shown a variety of factors are involved in a typical mishap. Collisions with other vessels and fixed objects are the primary reason for injuries and fatalities on our waterways. In addition, inattention to weather conditions, improper lookout, hanging over the side and riding on the bow combined with unexpected turns, leads to falls overboard and collisions.

The common thread most boating mishaps have is alcohol involvement. In recent years Florida was ranked number two in the country for fatalities and property damage, trailing only California. The statistics and "Murphy's Law" is worrisome for us in the safety office considering Florida is number three in the country for registered boat owners and recent mishap statistics have shown Florida to be problematic.

Thus, here in Tampa's cramped waterways, boaters are exposed to a greater risk as compared to many other cities and waterways in the country. To combat the high potential for a mishap the safety office recommends all boat enthusiasts take part in formal boating safety training course offered by their local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary which can be found at http://www.uscgboating.org/.

Boaters may contact the Coast Guard Auxiliary for classes, boat inspections, and other safety guidance. Please be careful on the water and have a safe, enjoyable summer.

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