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Boating Emergency - What To Do

For wakeboarders and all boaters, a few safety procedure could prevent a tragedy.

It's not really a subject that I like talking about, but it would be foolish not to address it. The fact is, emergencies do happen on the water. And I'll be the first one to admit it, nothing's a bigger buzz kill than reviewing safety information, but if and when disaster happens, you will be very glad you did.

It would be impossible to prepare for every single emergency that could happen on the water, but having a few safety procedures in mind could prevent an emergency from turning into a tragedy.

Retrieving An Injured Rider

The first and most important safety plan you should have is a method for retrieving an injured or unconscious rider. It usually only takes about 3 seconds to realize that something is wrong when a rider goes down.

Within that moment, you should reduce the speed immediately and turn the boat around, ensuring that you don't generate a lot of wake which could exacerbate the situation for the rider.

As you approach the rider call out and ask what's wrong. If the rider is conscious, remind him or her to stay calm and to minimize movement. This will prevent furthering the injury.

When the rider is within three or four feet of the boat, turn the engine off and reach out to gently pull the rider by the life jacket and slowly pull the person toward the swim platform. If you have the help of other passengers, slowly roll the rider onto the swim platform and examine the injured area(s).

Ensure that you have antiseptic spray and bandages on board to treat scrapes and cuts; if you don't, then now is a good time to refresh your first aid kit. If the injury is a dislocated shoulder or suspected broken arm, you can do your best to create a makeshift sling with a towel or lifejacket - anything to give the afflicted limb support until proper medical attention can be reached.

If the rider is unconscious, make sure you get to the victim as quickly as possible and ensure the person is floating face up in the water. Once again, gently and slowly pull the rider over to the swim platform. Check to see if the rider is breathing. If the rider isn't breathing, call 911 and start CPR.

If the rider is breathing, give him or her space and try fanning the face. If the rider doesn't come to in about 30-40 seconds then call 911.

Whether a rider has lost consciousness or has sustained a serious injury, the patient will need proper medical attention. Do your best to surmise the situation to determine if you can get to a medical facility in a fair amount of time. When in doubt, call 911.

In Case Of Fire

If there is going to be a fire on a boat, there is a 90 percent chance that the fire will originate from the engine bay. Most of the time, fire or even explosion can happen when gas fumes have collected in the engine compartment and haven't been fanned out when starting the engine.

Therefore, make it a habit to run the blower on your boat for at least 30-40 seconds or open your engine compartment before starting the engine. However, if you do find that your boat has caught fire, then make sure you have an action plan and escape plan.

The action plan: If you catch the fire quickly enough, grab your fire extinguisher and release the pin. Spray directly onto the fire, aiming for the base of the flames. Keep a constant flow until all the flames have disappeared and there is no more sign of spark.

The escape plan: If the action plan fails, then it's time to move to plan B - escape. If the fire grows to an uncontrollable scale, then immediately jump off the boat and swim away. Keep swimming until you are at least 50 yards away from the boat.

Do your best to flag down another boater and call for emergency services. It is much better to let the boat go, than to try to fight a losing battle - boats can always be replaced.

Disaster strikes when we least expect it, so don't let an emergency catch you off guard. Do your best to have plan and always stay calm. A cool head and a decisive plan can make all the difference.


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