PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with federal and local law enforcement officials, held a news conference today promoting boating safety. The informational session was held at Saint Andrews State Park and kicked off National Safe Boating Week.
According to FWC officials, Florida has the most registered boaters in the United States. As Memorial Day approaches, there is an immense increase in boating traffic. Officials are encouraging boaters to have all of their safety checks in place before they head out.
"We recommend having a ditch bag. Pretty much what that is is all your safety equipment in one spot. Something that floats, preferably. That way, if you're running into some trouble, you have all your equipment in there," said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Hanson.
Officials also recommend investing in a personal location beacon or a back up VHF.
"Something like this, a personal location beacon, you can get locally for about $250. One button notifies the Coast Guard that you're in distress, and we'll come right out to you," said Officer Hanson.
Another easy-to-use option that could be the difference between life or death is the use of life jackets.
"Have a life jacket for everybody on board. Understand how to put it on correctly. Ideally, wear your life jacket. If you're not going to be wearing it, have it easily accessible so if something did go down, you found yourself in the water, the person that's going to give you the life jacket can access it easily," said FWC Officer Susanna Stephens.
Officials say that it's worth investing in these safety precautions to avoid the risks of not preparing properly.
"We all come out here to have a good day, to recreate with our friends and our family. Unfortunately, others aren't aware of their surroundings. You might not be familiar with the area, and we just want to see, at the end of the day, you go home safely," said Officer Stephens.
Safe Boating Week begins tomorrow and will run through May 26th.
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