HARRISBURG, Pa. – With vibrant, changing foliage as a colorful backdrop to any adventure during the fall season, the lure of a relaxing paddle along a scenic river, stream, or lake is hard to resist. To ensure that boaters return home safely, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) reminds boaters to always wear a life jacket.
Beginning on November 1 and lasting through April 30, boaters are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket at all times while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or on any kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. The requirement applies to all Pennsylvania waters.
"This year, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people boating well into the fall months, including many first-time boaters,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC Boating and Watercraft Safety Manager. "The water temperature is dropping rapidly beginning this time of year, and even on sunny days when air temperatures are comfortable and warm, the water can be cold enough to put boaters at risk for sudden cold-water immersion. A life jacket can keep your head above water until help arrives."
Sudden cold-water immersion, or cold-water shock, occurs when a person is unexpectedly plunged into cold water below 70ºF resulting in an involuntary gasp where water is often inhaled. This uncontrollable reaction causes panic, hyperventilation, inhalation of water, and inhibits the ability of a person to swim.
According to Pennsylvania boating accident reports, nearly 80% of all boating fatalities occurred because boaters were not wearing life jackets. A disproportionate number of deaths happen between November and April.
Individuals who plan to fish, boat or hunt from a boat this fall or winter should follow these Cold Water Survival Safety Tips:
• Always wear a life jacket, even when not required. Many life jackets also offer insulation from cold air. Read approval labels to be sure the life jacket is appropriate for your boating activity.
• Never boat alone.
• Leave a float plan with family or friends so that someone knows where you are departing from and where you intend to arrive back ashore.
• Become familiar with the waters you plan to boat in advance of your trip.
• Bring a fully charged cell phone with you in case of emergency and store in a waterproof bag or container.
• Wear clothing that continues to insulate 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 to reduce the likelihood of inhaling water.
• If possible, stay with the boat. Get back into or climb on top of the boat.
• While in cold water, do not remove your clothing.
• If you cannot get out of the water, and you are wearing a lifejacket, get into the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP). In this position, individuals bring their knees to their chest and hug them with their arms.
• Once out of the water, remove wet clothes and warm up as soon as possible.
• Seek medical attention when necessary. Err on the side of caution. Some effects of exposure to cold temperatures can be delayed.
To learn more, visit the Water Safety and Wear It Pennsylvania pages on the PFBC website.
The Wear It Pennsylvania campaign and logo are a partnership between the PFBC and the National Safe Boating Council.
The PFBC is proud to partner with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to encourage life jacket wear and safe boating among hunters who use boats during the fall and winter hunting seasons. A joint-agency public service announcement may be viewed here: https://youtu.be/w42dWLJzV64
To view videos produced by the PFBC in partnership with the members of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation, use the following links (by county).
Carbon County Clinton County Crawford County
Indiana County York County (1) York County (2)