Are you AWARE? Delaware’s Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Remind Boaters of Hypothermia Dangers

December 2, 2016

December 2, 2016

Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police remind the boating public that with fall weather comes cooler air and water temperatures, putting those who hunt, fish or cruise our waterways at risk from hypothermia if they fall overboard.

“Boating in colder weather provides some great fishing, hunting and recreational opportunities, but to stay safe in the event of a mishap, it’s all about choosing and using the right gear,” said Sgt. John McDerby, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police. “Keep in mind that falling overboard or getting excessively chilled or wet on deck can put you at risk for hypothermia, so dress and outfit yourself appropriately.”

Immersion in cool water can lead very quickly to hypothermia, in which the body instinctively protects its core by shutting down blood flow to limbs first. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends wearing layers for protection and warmth, including gloves and a hat. Recommended gear also includes three types of protective clothing to reduce risk: flotation coats, which double as life jackets but may not protect against hypothermia if the wearer falls into cold water; immersion or survival suits, which can increase survival time in cold water; or a dry suit, worn for intentional entry into cold water to keep water out and, with thermal layers beneath, keep warmth in.

Other recommended safety items include:

• Life jackets, worn by everyone on board, especially non-swimmers in all seasons; Delaware law requires that all children 12 years old and younger aboard a vessel wear a lifejacket while underway.
• Blankets, to stay warm on board while awaiting rescue.
• Multiple means of communication – a fully-charged cell phone and a marine radio.
• A vessel-mounted or handheld GPS to relay your exact location to assist first responders.
• Items to attract the attention of rescuers: a whistle, a personal position locator beacon (PLB) and a personal emergency locator light and/or flares, all kept in immersion suit pockets and secured with a lanyard.

Boat operators should also plan to spend a little extra time on vessel preparations and maintenance to help prevent breakdowns on the water, including checking fuel levels before heading out. “An equipment failure that would be a minor inconvenience in warmer weather could be life-threatening this time of year,” Sgt. McDerby said.

Sgt. McDerby also added these tips:

• Check your vessel’s capacity plate for maximum weight to avoid overloading, which can lead to possible capsizing; hunting parties are reminded to take the weight of their gear into account.
• Keep your cell phone in a secure pocket and sealed in a plastic bag.
• Pack a set of dry clothing in a sealed plastic bag.
• If you fall overboard or capsize, stay with your boat for a better chance of being found sooner.
• Keep clothing on to help retain heat.
• File a “float plan” with a responsible friend or family member. Include a description of your boat, when you plan to head out, who is going with you, where you plan to go and when you plan to return.

“Filing a float plan is always a good idea, because unforeseen circumstances can hit boaters in any season at any time, including a storm, engine problems, swamping and injuries or other health issues,” Sgt. McDerby said. “With your plans in a friend or family member’s hands, they can call for help if you’re overdue and tell searchers where to begin looking for you, saving precious time.”

For more information on safe boating practices in Delaware, including an easy-to-use float plan form, please visit Delaware Boating Safety.

DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish, wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at

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