The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts today and is a sober reminder to think about disaster preparedness for you and your family.
When it comes to hurricane response and preparedness the Coast Guard works closely with local, county, tribal, state and federal agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to save lives and protect property. But, perhaps the most important member of our hurricane preparedness and response team is the boating community. As a boater, you can keep an eye on the weather, port conditions and other hurricane warnings and make the necessary precautions to stay safe.
Remember, if the weather is hazardous for a tanker vessel it’s definitely hazardous for your recreational boat! Here are a few tips for hurricane preparedness related to the maritime environment that we hope you will bear in mind this hurricane season.
Preparing for a hurricane – 72 hours prior
• If you live or boat in an area prone to hurricanes or heavy weather, know your local and national weather sources and monitor them continuously.
• Remove small boats from the water and move them to a secure location. Ensure the trailer and boats are secured above likely flood areas. Remove all loose items. Ensure the boat is tied securely to the trailer. Contact local marinas and ask for advice. The marina operators are knowledgeable and can advise you on the best methods for securing your boat.
• If your boat is too large to be removed from the water, move it to a safe haven well before the storm approaches. You should know where safe havens are in the area where you boat. Use extra fenders, even used tires, to protect your boat. Double up mooring lines, secure all hatches, take down the mast if possible and remove all loose items from the vessel. Secure everything.
• 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. Because of the uncertainty of weather movements and related bridge closures, mariners should seek early passage through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of gale force winds.
Preparing for a hurricane – 24 hours prior
• The public should check with their local Coast Guard sector for an up-to-date status of local ports.
• Never forget that storms move quickly and are unpredictable. You can always replace a boat; you cannot replace a life.
Preparing for a hurricane – vessels in the storm
• Do not go out to sea in a recreational boat to “ride out” a hurricane. All mariners are advised to stay off the water.
• If you are unable to evade a storm, ensure you wear a life jacket and know how to activate your distress signaling devices. Rescue and assistance by the Coast Guard and other agencies, however, may be severely degraded or unavailable immediately before, during and after a devastating storm.
• If you are in a vessel and you see signs of heavy weather, seek shelter. While en route to shelter, secure the boat and prepare passengers for possible rough water, heavy rains and high winds. Have all aboard put on life jackets. Do not let passengers below deck remove life jackets.
• If you think the boat may sink, it may be best not to have passengers below deck at all. Keep passengers above deck and attached to safety lines.
• If you get into trouble, call for help immediately. Ideally, you should have an EPIRB on board in addition to a marine radio. Keep in touch with the Coast Guard or anyone else you can reach so someone knows your location and assistance can be sent if needed.
• Carry life rafts on board large vessels. If the vessel sinks, board the life raft, stay with it and tether passengers together. Keep moving slowly to keep circulation and body temperature up and avoid overexertion.