basic elements of personal safety
to recognize and prevent environmental injuries (heat
effects and dangers of alcohol and drugs on PWC operation
and water safety
different types of life jackets and their use
to Swim and Float
ability to swim and float is basic to personal safety anytime
you are in or near the water. These skills may help you save
yourself as well as others. One gauge of swimming ability is
being able to swim 100 yards using any stroke and to tread water
for five minutes. If you are unsure of your skills or know that
you need improvement, contact your local recreation center for
practice times or swimming lessons.
that Can Affect Your Judgment, Health, and Safety
stressors such as sun (temperature and glare), wind, waves,
vibration, and noise may affect your judgment and put you at
a greater risk for a mishap. Drug and alcohol use also affect
your judgment, health, and safety. It is important to watch
your own condition and you should observe those you are boating
with. It is often easier to see early signs of fatigue in others
than in yourself.
To reduce the impact of stressors:
exposure to the stressors.
plenty of water.
energy foods such as energy bars or fruit.
well rested and take frequent breaks.
100% UV protection sunglasses, sunscreen,
a hat and proper clothing.
is too much noise?
from poorly muffled or non-muffled motors is not only annoying,
it is illegal and prevents boat operators from hearing voices,
signals, and warnings of danger. It is also illegal to alter
your PWC muffler system as it can increase the amount and pitch
of the sound from the motor. Remember that prolonged exposure
to noise is a stressor that can increase fatigue and lower response
time. The next time you go boating, be courteous. Reduce your
level of noise, especially when you are in a congested or residential
area. Don't operate your PWC in the same area for long periods
of time, this may be unpleasant to others. Courtesy counts.
Remember, your actions reflect on all PWC operators.
alcohol and other drug use while boating are significant causes
of accidents. Alone, alcohol or drugs impair judgment, slow
response time and reduce your ability to respond to an emergency.
Alcohol and drugs also increase the negative impacts of sun,
wind, waves, vibration, and noise.
Temperature not only affects your judgment,
but can lead to serious injury or illness. Hyperthermia occurs
when your body is unable to sufficiently cool itself when exposed
to high air temperatures. Hypothermia occurs when the core body
temperature drops below normal; if it drops low enough, death
can result. It is important to know that both maladies are easier
to reverse when recognized in their early stages.
symptoms of hyperthermia (heat exhaustion) include weakness,
pale skin, headache, and heavy sweating. If the victim is
not treated, the skin may become hot and bright red. The
victim may become delirious or disoriented, followed by
a loss of consciousness (heat stroke).
hyperthermia by avoiding prolonged direct exposure to heat
and sun. When possible, spend time in a cooler location
and be sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Avoid
diuretics such as caffeinated sodas, coffee, tea or alcohol
as these drinks will make you more dehydrated.
symptoms of hypothermia include feeling cold, shivering,
loss of coordination, and feeling tired or ill. If the victim
is not treated, violent shivering, increased heart rate,
and impaired judgment will result. In advanced stages of
hypothermia, symptoms include cessation of shivering, loss
of consciousness, cold skin and blue lips, and the inability
to speak, walk or swim. As this condition progresses, your
breathing and heart can stop, resulting in death.
hypothermia by preventing heat loss. The best way to do
this is to be properly equipped and clothed. This may include
wetsuits, drysuits, warm synthetic clothing, fast-drying
clothing, life jackets and a warm hat.
body temperature can drop quickly if your boat capsizes
and you are in cold water. Get as far out of the water as
possible by climbing onto any floating object, such as the
boat's hull. This may help prevent heat loss from your body,
especially if the temperature is warm and the winds are
you cannot get out of the water, keep your head out of the
water to limit heat loss. Curl into a ball or huddle with
other passengers and restrict movement of arms and legs
to further help limit heat loss. These are known as HELP
or Heat Escape Lessening Positions. The positions (at left)
are most effective in calm waters.
chill is the effect of the wind and air temperature on the
human body. Wind chill can rapidly cause heat loss, especially
if you are already wet. Under some conditions, such as in
cool or cold weather, staying out of the wind may become
a very important factor in staying warm.
hypothermia is in the early stages you can easily reverse
it by vigorously exercising to generate body heat and limiting
your exposure to further cold. High energy foods and warm
liquids (no caffeine or alcohol!) also help.
medical help, except in mild cases, as improper rewarming
can cause complications.
left untreated, both hypothermia or hyperthermia can result
more information on hypothermia, consult website: http://www.dbw.ca.gov/resourc.htm
and click on "hypothermia"
addition to learning about hypothermia and hyperthermia, it is
important to learn First Aid. It is highly recommended that you
at least receive training in basic first aid and CPR. The best
place to contact for a class near you is your local American Red
Cross office. Look in your local phone book or check the Internet
at www.redcross.org for a chapter near you.
equipment is essential to the proper operation of any boat or
vessel, including PWC. Some safety equipment is required by law,
while other equipment is recommended. The most important piece
of equipment for personal safety is the personal floatation device
(PFD) or life jacket. The life jacket must be the correct type,
have a good fit and be well maintained.
boating fatalities occur as a result of drowning and could be
prevented by wearing a personal flotation device, better known
as a life jacket. Modern life jackets are colorful, comfortable
and easy to wear. Wearing a life jacket is important, regardless
of your swimming ability or your boating experience.
person on board a PWC must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
A life jacket should provide enough buoyancy to keep you afloat
until help comes. Therefore:
Check that the life jacket is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type
III or Type V.
that the life jacket is appropriate for your weight and chest
that it is properly fitted and fully clipped or zipped up.
make sure that you have selected the correct life jacket for yourself:
for a snug fit. Adjust straps and buckles to ensure a proper
fit that does not restrict breathing. If you lift a partner's
life jacket by the shoulders, the life jacket should not ride
up to cover the wearer's ears. Readjust the straps and buckles,
and if it still does not pass the lift test, try a different
the buoyancy in safe water by relaxing your body and letting
your head tilt back. The life jacket should keep your chin and
mouth out of the water, and allow you to breathe easily.
most common types of life jackets used on PWC are Type III and
Type V as shown here.
III, flotation aid. (15.5 lbs. buoyancy)
Good for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of
a fast rescue.
Generally the most comfortable for continuous wear because of
the freedom of movement for activities such as personal watercraft,
water skiing, paddling, small boat sailing, and fishing.
Not for extended use in rough water. Wearer may have to tilt head
back to avoid face down position in the water.
Many individual sizes from child to adult.
V, special use device.
Required to be worn for special uses or conditions.
Made for specific activity. Typical Type V life jackets that are
used for PWC are designed to help protect the user in case of
See label for limited use.
Many individual sizes from child to adult.
learn more about life jackets, consult our website
Some things to remember:
make sure that your life jacket remains in good condition and
has a long life:
not alter the life jacket. An altered life jacket no longer
meets legal requirements and may not save your life.
not place heavy objects on the life jacket during storage or
use the life jacket for a kneeling pad, boat fender, or seat
cushion. They lose buoyancy when they are crushed.
the life jacket air dry thoroughly before putting it away.
store your life jacket in a well-ventilated place, out of direct
sunlight and away from fuel or oil.
dry your life jacket by a direct heat source, such as a dryer,
heater, or radiator.
wearing, check the life jacket for signs of wear and age. Look
for rips or tears, mildew, insecure or missing straps, frayed
webbing, broken zippers or buckles, and hardened stuffing. A
life jacket with any of these problems must be replaced.