The following information has been provided by the Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly.
Boat Safety Tips for Lake Michigan and the Chicago River
As we head into the much anticipated summer season, officials from the City’s public safety departments, U.S. Coast Guard and boating and water safety industry associations emphasize safe boating practices.
Boating and water recreation safety on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River is a priority of the City of Chicago and the Coast Guard. According to Coast Guard statistics, 560 boaters died on our nation’s waterways in 2013. 78 of those deaths occurred in the Great Lakes region. Among those nationwide, 77% of fatal boating accident victims drowned and of those who drowned, 84% were not wearing a life jacket. Small recreational vessels, including paddle craft, are the most vulnerable. Eight of every 10 boaters who drowned were using boats less than 21 feet in length.
In addition, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents–it’s responsible for 16 percent of boater deaths and vessel collisions are the most frequent accident type.
Whether it is extreme hot temperatures, rain, thunderstorms or high winds, weather affect one’s ability to safely maneuver on the water. OEMC encourages the public to learn more about the safety tips offered by the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary. These tips can save lives and prevent water accidents and emergencies.
Area boaters are urged to follow these principles to ensure a safe summer season on the water:
Stay Afloat – Life jackets save lives.
According to Coast Guard studies, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Of the remaining 16 percent, many were either wearing a model that was not designed to keep their head out of the water after the wearer lost consciousness or not wearing a life jacket at all.
While there are many factors that can contribute to boating accidents, a properly fitting life jacket can save a life even after an accident has occurred.
Stay Prepared and Informed – FREE Vessel Safety Checks and Boat Safety Courses from the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
According to a Coast Guard study, of the 560 fatalities in 2013, only 13 percent involved an operator who received boating safety instruction from courses meeting the U.S. Coast Guard recognized national standards.
The Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters (including personal watercraft users) take advantage of the free vessel safety check program every year. VSCs are offered by experienced members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons, two of the nation’s premier volunteer boating safety organizations. A VSC is the best possible way to learn about potential violations of state and federal requirements. But more importantly, these quick exams can keep your boat and passengers out of harm’s way. Request a VSC here.
The boating safety courses cover many topics to provide a foundation of operational and safety instruction. The courtesy examinations can uncover safety deficiencies that can be remedied prior to leaving the dock. Visit www.uscgboating.org to learn more about Vessel Safety Checks or to find a certified examiner near you.
Stay Alert – Don’t Boat Under the Influence.
Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents-it’s responsible for 16 percent of boater deaths. Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol than consuming alcohol on land.
Stay in Touch – Have the Right Type of Communication Device.
Cell phone coverage is often spotty, so having a reliable VHF-FM marine radio on-hand is recommended for communications during times of distress. Consider purchasing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) if you boat alone = or offshore. When activated, these devises can be used by responders to identify the location of distressed boaters.
Other safety tips for boat operators, passengers and swimmers include:
- Know the weather and water conditions before boating or swimming
- Never swim alone and always swim near life guards
- Always wear a lifejacket. Don’t just store it. Putting a life jacket on is much harder once you’re in the water-especially if you’re injured
- Check local rip current forecasts, and never swim in rough water
- Be aware of carbon monoxide hazards in and around a boat, and maintain a continuous flow of fresh air
- File a float plan; give the information to a friend or relative who can call for help if you do not return as scheduled.
- Maintain a clear unobstructed view forward at all times. Most boating collisions are caused by obstruction or distraction.
- Observe the nautical rules of the water, including speed limits
- Learn C.P.R. and first aid
- Ensure children are always supervised and wearing a life jacket
- Stop the engine when boarding or exiting the boat
Chicago Beach Rules
- Follow lifeguards’ instructions – they are there to keep you safe!
- Only Coast Guard approved flotation devices are permitted.
- No smoking.
- No alcohol.
- No glass containers – broken glass in the sand can cause serious injuries.
- Dogs are not allowed on the beach except in designated dog friendly areas at Foster Beach and Montrose Beach.
- Do not feed birds or wildlife. Seagulls and geese are one of the largest sources of the bacteria that causes swim advisories. Feeding gulls attracts them to the beach.
- Dispose of trash and recycling in appropriate containers. Trash attracts gulls to the beach, which can cause swim advisories.
- Grill in designated areas only and dispose of coals in red barrels. Please do not dump coals next to trees, where they can damage tree roots.
- Keep accessible beach walks clear. No bicycling, skateboarding or rollerblading is permitted in these areas.
- Surfing, windsurfing and kiteboarding are only allowed in designated areas.
- Visit the National Weather Service’s website to learn about rip tides.