PFBC Warns Boaters
Inside the Outdoors, November 4,

Anyone who has had the pleasure of using some type of floatation device can tell one, wearing those orange, bulky floatation devices may feel cumbersome, if not downright uncomfortable. So, the state insisted that they be in one’s craft at least during the summer months.

But summer is a thing of the past and fall is definitely upon us. Thus, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) as of November 1 is reminding all boaters that each occupant of every craft must now wear these life-saving apparel while on the way to and from a locale or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length.

This rule applies to all Pennsylvania waters.

“Life jackets are the most important piece of safety equipment,” stated PFBC’s Boating and Watercraft Manager Ryan Walt. A staggering eighty per cent of all fatalities happen to boaters not wearing safety devices.

Walt said, “A disproportionate number of fatalities occur during the month of November through April During these cold weather months, boaters are especially at risk due to the water temperature and the risk of sudden water immersion.”

The PFBC brought up a good point by explaining that when a person accidentally falls into water below seventy degrees, the body’s first response is unusually an involuntary gasp. Without a life jacket, the victim may inhale water while under its surface and consequently drown before rising back to the top.

Several years ago, while my good friend Michael Stein was alive, he would regularly take me fishing. It was a blessing to be out on the open waters doing what we loved to do best.

But what the Greensburg resident owned was a Jon Boat, one that had a flat bottom. That’s a little trickier to use rather than the common rowboat. We had to arrange our seating so that the boat was balanced. If both of us caught fish on the same side, the boat would flip over and we would be joining the aquatic species we were trying to catch.

The point I am making here was that it was almost imperative one wear’s personal flotation device (PDF) or face dire consequences.

Several companies such as Cabela’s and Bass Pro carry any number of these devices according to one’s preference. Before investing in one of many, know what the pros and cons are of each device.

The PFBC suggests that individuals, who plan to go out on the waters, whether it’s on kayaks to look at the fall foliage, anglers trying for fall musky, or hunters searching out their fowl, follow the following suggestions:

  • Always wear a life jacket a life jacket all the time. Many models offer insulation from the cold air.
  • Read the life jacket’s approval label to make sure if it meets your needs.
  • Take a fully charged cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Never boat alone.
  • Know the waters one plans to boat
  • Let others know where you will be boating.
  • Wear clothing that still insulates when wet, such as fleece, polypropylene or other synthetics.
  • If by chance one should fall into the water, cover one’s nose and mouth with one’s hands. This will prevent the likelihood of taking in water.
  • If one should fall from a boat into the water, try to stay with it as much as possible.
  • If for some reason one can’t get out of the water, bring one’s knees to one’s chest. The PFBC refers to this as “HELP,” Heat Escape Lessening Posture.
  • Once out of the water, remove wet clothes and warm up as soon as possible.

The PFBC recommends using U.S. Coast Guard approved PFDs..

- Paul J. Volkmann
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