Before you hit the water make sure to do a thorough check of your onboard safety equipment. You can also reference this guide for any federal requirement questions you may have.
1. Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) – First, verify that all PFDs are in working condition, and your type IV throw-able PFD is stored in an easy to access place. When checking the condition of each PFD look for frayed spots, broken buckles or straps, and mildew and rips in the fabric. Be sure to examine inflatable life jackets’ CO2 cylinders, and auto-inflate systems to confirm they are all functioning and have not been used. It’s also important to check your type IV throw-able PFD, as these tend to damage easily from elements of the weather and wildlife. If you find after examining each PFD that some are not functioning correctly, then check out www.lifejacketsplus.com to purchase a new PFD.
2. Signals – Now you need to check all your distress signal devices. The majority of boaters who operate where visual distress signals are required use pyrotechnic devices – either meteor, parachute, hand-held or smoke flares. These need to be stored in a dry and cool location aboard your boat. Each device has an expiration date. Expired equipment cannot be counted towards your visual distress signal requirement, but can be carried as extra. A minimum of three signals for day and three for night are required.
3. Communication Equipment – Most boaters take out their electronics and store them at home during the winter months. However, if your electronics spent the winter stored in your boat, then you need to check a few things. First, check your radio’s antenna, microphone and power connections for corrosion. Regardless of where you stored your radio over the winter make sure to conduct a radio check with either the marina or another boater to verify that the radio is receiving and transmitting correctly. If you own an Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon (EPIRB), then you’ll need to check a few things on it too. Make sure your EPIRB is registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), check the battery and confirm that it’s not expired, and ensure it has no physical damage.
4. Fire Extinguisher – Fire extinguishers need to be Coast Guard approved and in good condition. Before you head out on the water, make sure all the gauges are fully charged. Some extinguishers may even have pop-up charge indicators.
5. First-Aid Kit – Whether you’ve packaged your own first aid kit or you bought a commercially packaged one, make sure it is fully stocked. Check all medicines to verify that they are not expired.