2019 Press Release
April 16, 2019
DEEP Alerts Boaters and Anglers to Dangers
of Cold Water Immersion
Cold Waters of Early Spring Pose Risks
As more residents take to the water for the fishing season, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is reminding boaters of the perils of cold water immersion and the importance of heeding safe boating tips.
This past Saturday, April 13, marked the opening day of the 2019 fishing season, when many anglers took to the waters for the first time this year. For most, boating and fishing are safe and enjoyable recreational activities, however, DEEP reminds residents that safe boating practices can help avoid tragic accidents. Between 2008 and 2017, there were 571 reportable boating accidents in the state, and 63 fatalities. Of fatalities involving a canoe or kayak, 90 percent of those boaters were not wearing a life jacket.
The risk is higher this time of year, when even as air temperatures rise, water temperatures remain cold.
Best Practices for Safe Boating:
- Wear Your Life Jacket! – Modern life jackets are more comfortable than ever before, and DEEP urges anyone on the water to wear one. It will make you more visible to other boaters and will keep you afloat, significantly improving your chances for survival.
- Follow the law – All persons in manually propelled vessels (canoes, kayaks, rowboats and stand up paddleboards) must wear a properly fitting life jacket between Oct. 1 and May 31.
- Do not paddle alone – Paddle with a partner and know how to get back into your boat should you fall out. When paddling with a partner, it is easier to get back into a boat or reach shore safely.
- Dress for the water temperature, not air temperature – Water temperatures vary greatly around the state, but all are still what is considered cold water. At these temperatures, the risk of cold water shock and involuntary gasp reflex are elevated. This involuntary gasp reflex is a leading cause of drowning.
- Share your Float Plan. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Make sure you let the person know when you are home safely and identify who to call if you don’t.
- Maintain a proper lookout. Damaged docks, pilings and trees may be floating down rivers and into Long Island Sound. Boaters should be especially vigilant when they get out on the water to look for and avoid floating debris.
- On powered vessels, check the condition of all safety and electrical systems, water and fuel hoses, bilge pumps and drain plugs. Make sure all hose clamps are in good condition. Accidents involving the sinking of a boat or fires onboard are generally a springtime occurrence.
To see the effects of cold water immersion and the benefits of wearing a life jacket, access the Cold Water Boot Camp USA video at: https://youtu.be/J1xohI3B4Uc
DEEP Boating Division Director Peter Francis said, “When the springtime sun finally comes out and people get back on the water, it is easy to forget about the dangers of boating on cold water this time of year. We want to remind everyone how important it is to the take the proper safety precautions – especially wearing life jackets. Unfortunately, it only takes seconds for a good day on the water to turn into a family tragedy.”
Captain Keith Williams, of DEEP’s Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police said, “Boaters and fishermen should not be put off by the dangers of cold water. However, people on our rivers, lakes and Long Island Sound must realize that cold water creates an extremely hostile environment. It is very important to take proper safety precautions to minimize the chances of going into the water – and to be prepared for immersion if you do.”