PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) joins partners across the U.S. and Canada to kick off National Safe Boating Week on Saturday - as part of the North American Wear It! Campaign.
As part of the week's festivities, DEM is setting up a life-jacket loaner station at Burlingame Campground in Charlestown; it will be available 24-hours a day throughout the boating season. Funded by the Sea Tow Foundation, the station will be stocked with life jackets for adults, children and toddlers; boaters are welcome to borrow the jackets free of charge and return them at the end of their boating excursion.
Throughout the week - which is designed to promote safe boating practices, DEM will conduct increased water patrols and boating safety inspections. In addition, DEM environmental police officers will join the U.S. Coast Guard and Auxiliary at the National Safe Boating Week open house on Saturday, May 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Station Castle Hill in Newport.
"The key to safe boating is the life jacket," said Lieutenant Steven Criscione, boating safety coordinator for DEM's Division of Law Enforcement. "A person who suffers swimming failure or loss of consciousness will stay afloat wearing a life jacket, but will drown without one. There is no time to put a life jacket on before a boating accident - no different than attempting to buckle your seat belt before a car crash."
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2014; eighty-four percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. Boaters are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board for every passenger on the boat. Boating safety advocates recommend that all boaters and passengers not only have a life jacket, but 'Wear It!' at all times while boating.
Important Reminders • Children under 13 years old must wear an approved life jacket on recreational craft unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. • Make sure life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved. • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities. Today, life jackets are stylish, versatile, comfortable and lightweight. New technology allows many to inflate automatically when immersed in water. • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can be hazardous. • Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to "grow into."
For more information on Rhode Island boating laws, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for more information on boating in Rhode Island as well as other timely updates.