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What Should You Always Do When A Person Falls Overboard?

According to US Coast Guard statistics from 2017, 306 persons aboard boats fell into the water that year, resulting in 179 deaths and 126 hospitalizations. When you first get aboard a boat, your initial thought is usually not about the need for contingency systems.

Nobody expects someone to go overboard. But the truth is that anything might occur.

What Should You Always Do When A Person Falls Overboard

Avoiding an overboard scenario is simple if you plan ahead of time. But if you aren’t ready, it will be difficult, and you will be more prone to become swamped by the stress of the situation. It’s not only that they’ve fallen overboard: It’s also about keeping the individual from drowning.

All members of the crew and guests must be aware of what they’re doing to help in the event of an emergency. Here’s what to do when someone goes overboard on a boat:

First Steps

When there is a man-overboard (MOB) incident, you must act quickly. Time is short; at that point, the whole boat’s primary purpose is to save one person. Consider the following procedures to assist secure the person promptly and safely:

  • If someone falls overboard, you must notify everyone as soon as possible. To notify the crew of the emergency, yell “Man overboard!” Individuals can then rush into action. Then, get a good look at where the sufferer has fallen into the ocean. If you have a large enough staff, assign this task to a single individual.
  • If you don’t know where the individual has gone into the ocean, it’s necessary to stop the boat. You don’t want to chance to strike them; it would almost certainly be deadly.
  • Enable the MOB GPS key if you have one.
  • Start chucking out MOB gear, life jackets, and floating pillows to the sufferer. Offer them anything they can grip onto to keep them afloat until you can safely recover them.
  • Return to the scene and make an attempt to locate the sufferer.
  • Call mayday 3 times on VHF 16 in a deadly scenario. Then state “man overboard,” followed by your position, vessel identification, and casualty summary. Do this 3 times in a row. If you get the passenger onboard before aid arrives, you can withdraw the mayday call. It is always best to be safe rather than sorry.

Nobody wants to imagine their relaxing afternoon boat excursion developing into a tense situation. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to understand that there’s always a danger, whether it’s due to an unexpected swell, terrible weather, or an unskilled boater.

Make absolutely sure you have all of the necessary measures in place prior to embarking on your journey. Make sure you have functioning flotation equipment on board and that it is easily reachable, and go over MOB protocols ahead of schedule.

Finally, ensure that your Boat Insurance program provides bodily harm protection in case someone is injured on your vessel.

Knowing Your Boat

Prior to actually heading off and attempting to rescue your overboard victim, you must first determine the type of vessel you own. You wouldn’t want any boat components making contact with that person. Determine the type of chine you have now and study your stern deck.

Consider your vessel and any issues you might have had with its mobility when planning for a rescue operation.

There are 3 turns to be careful of when saving a person: the “Destroyer” move, the Anderson move, and the Williamson turn. For somebody who has gone overboard, these simple maneuvers can be a matter of life and death.

What If The Person Is Too Far Away?

If the individual that has fallen overboard swiftly drifts too far away for you to reach them, you should toss something into the water. Launch a buoyant item, such as a boating pillow or safety ring, a spare safety harness, or any buoyant item, even an emptied cooler, to the person.

While the user’s life vest will keep them floating, possessing a buoyant item to grab on to help to ease everyone’s anxiety.

It will also serve as a benchmark if you lose track of the individual in the ocean; if a hunt is required, rescue personnel will have an immediately noticeable guide on the path of drift, which will aid in the rescue.

If the individual is farther out for a tossed buoyant item, row – or, more precisely, “navigate the vessel” – over to them. Reach them from the vessel driver’s edge so that the individual in the sea is always visible. Shut off the engine as you draw closer to prevent a propeller collision.

Now, toss them a buoyant item and assist them in getting back aboard.

If the preceding methods are ineffective, or if the individual in the sea is unresponsive – and hitting the water would not endanger a competent swimmer – someone may swim out to the individual.

Once you’ve got the individual up beside the vessel, it’s best to get them back on the boat using a boarding staircase or swimming deck. That way, you won’t have to worry about more people dropping in.

If the sufferer is incapacitated and therefore unable to raise his or her own bodyweight, having a hoisting rope on board is a viable option. Alternatively, 2 persons can each lay a hand underneath the victim’s underarm and gently lift the individual in a fluid and synchronized motion.

“Reach, Throw, Row, and Go” are the fundamentals of water rescue. Make a drill and incorporate the entire family once you’ve mastered the procedures. These short, recurring assessments implant the information required in a crisis.

You’re more likely to recognize what to do if you practice drills, even if you’re not feeling very calm. Rehearse the rescue procedures at periodic intervals and whenever you take on additional passengers.

That way, if a passenger slips over and your heart begins racing, you’ll know precisely what to do to handle the situation.

Why Do People Fall Overboard?

Why Do People Fall Overboard

A passenger falling overboard might be caused by a number of circumstances. Keep an eye out for these warning indicators;

  • Extreme Speeds – Some boats can reach exceptionally high speeds. Slow it down if your speed is causing you to lose your equilibrium.
  • Uneven Swells – On heavy waters, a person can quickly end up in the water. Whenever the water is turbulent, be especially careful.
  • Unstable passengers – Pay great attention if you have a passenger with a medical problem. The same is true for passengers who are very elderly or very small. Anyone with coordination or strength difficulties is at risk of falling overboard.
  • Alcohol – Driving a boat while intoxicated is clearly unsafe. Being a member of the crew on a vessel with liquor, on the other hand, can be just as hazardous. If others are drinking, make sure it is kept to a reasonable level.
  • Unsafe Circumstances – A cluttered boat or one with junk on the deck is a hazard. A boat with unmanaged sails and slack cables could result in a person overboard emergency.

What If I’m The One Who Falls Overboard?

If you end up in the sea for whatever reason, how you respond could make the difference between success and death. Many seafaring deaths happen as a result of casualties and boaters not understanding what to do.

  1. Maintain your composure. One of the most difficult aspects of falling from a boat is remaining calm and composed.
  1. You may feel cold shocks if you are in chilly water. This is an unintentional reflex that leads you to exhale. As a consequence, you may breathe in water. To avoid this, try and cover your lips with your palm.
  1. Maintain your visibility. This is significantly more challenging in choppy water. Make a lot of noise and wave your arms so the people on the boat can see where you are.
  1. Wear a life vest.   Life jackets serve 2 key functions. The flotation component will keep you afloat. However, the vivid color serves as a visual cue. This aids others in locating you in the sea. Try to utilize anything else and if you’re not wearing a harness. If you’re wearing anything bright, keep it just above the water and visible.
  1. In chilly water, you may raise your knees up if you’re wearing a life jacket. This enables you to float securely while maintaining body temperature.
  1. Take out any bulky stuff. Strip any sweaters, heavy boots, or other apparel you are sporting. You may lose it to the water, but the additional weight is holding you down.
  1. Keep to one location. If you’re a strong swimmer, staying put is your best chance. Swimming rapidly depletes your energy reserves. This is particularly true when the water is chilly. If you start to move, the ship might have had a tough time getting you. Stay in one spot and attract the boater’s focus. Depending on how and where you went overboard, it may take some time for the crew to find you. Till then, it’s preferable to float and preserve energy.
  1. Create a PFD from scratch. In a hurry, you might be able to create your own flotation gear. Depending on what you’re wearing, you might be able to trap air in your garments. Jeans and other types of pants work well for this.

Final Thoughts

Above all, employ good judgment. One of the most serious issues with individuals drowning is a lack of education. Numerous people board a boat without knowing what they’re doing.

Boating is designed to be enjoyable, but it must also be appreciated. Boating safety necessitates an awareness of how and why specific things must be done. It is your job as a boat owner to ensure that your guests are aware of this.

It’s one thing to have fun at the beach. Drinking a few drinks and celebrating is also OK. But it must all be done appropriately.

The number of deaths caused by persons falling overboard is not a joke. However, it is preventable or avoidable if everybody knows what to do.

Lucas Jones