Beginning November 1, 2013, all boaters (including waterfowl hunters) in Pennsylvania must wear a life jacket on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak during the cold-water months from November 1 through April 30. IT IS THE LAW!
Recreational boating fatalities that occur in the state from November through April are primarily caused by the effects of cold-water immersion. Statistics clearly show that boating accidents that occur during the cold water period are much more likely to result in death than accidents in warmer water.
When water temperatures fall below 70 degrees F., cold-water shock is a major factor in boating fatalities. Cold water shock causes an involuntary gasp reflex (often resulting in aspiration of water), hyperventilation, breathlessness and a reduced ability to control breathing and to swim. Those wearing a life jacket when exposed to cold water have potentially life-saving advantages such as insulation from the cold, buoyancy and reduced risk of aspiration of water.
In an effort to reduce the number of fatalities related to cold water immersion, the PA Fish & Boat Commission amended regulations which first became effective in 2012 to require life jackets to be worn on small and unstable boats during the period most noted for cold water.
Here are some cold water survival safety tips:
- Always wear a life jacket, even when not required. Many models also offer insulation from cold air.
- Never boat alone.
- Leave a float plan and know the waters you plan to boat.
- Bring a fully-charged cell phone with you in case of emergency.
- Wear clothing that still insulates when wet such as fleece, polypropylene or other synthetics.
- If you are about to fall into cold water, cover your mouth and nose with your hands. This will reduce the likelihood of inhaling water.
- If possible, stay with the boat. Get back into or climb on top of the boat.
- While in the water, do not remove your clothing in cold water.
- If you can’t get out of the water, get into the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP).
- Once out of the water, get out of the wet clothes and warmed up as soon as possible.
Click here to learn more about life jacket wear and cold water survival.