As more and more Pittsburgh area residents get their pleasure boats on the three rivers, the Coast Guard is offering instructions on what to do when there's a "man overboard." Boating accidents have slightly increased since 2010, due to the higher number of boat registrations. Norman Arbes, Vice Division Commander for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, said certain steps can be taken to avoid a disaster in the water.
He said traffic on Pittsburgh's rivers is different from lake traffic.
"We have to worry about commercial and the recreational boater, and the recreational boater has the speed boats and the personal water craft — which is the wave runners — and you constantly have to be aware of the tow boats that are moving up and down our rivers for commerce," Arbes said.
Arbes added it is important to make sure boats are in top condition before embarking on the water. "When you have a successful vessel safety check, you will be given a decal for your left port window, and that will indicate to the Coast Guard and the Fishing Boat Commission that you have taken the time to have a vessel exam done on your boat and you are a conscientious boater," Arbes said.
The Coast Guard offers a series of life-saving tips:
- When approaching a vessel in distress, do a U-shaped survey of all four sides while avoiding obstacles and shallow water.
- Use a heaving line, a strong rope or cable cord, for stern tows.
- Ensure that the boat crew is all able to call out "man overboard" on port or starboard side. The person throwing the life ring should be visible to the boat driver or coxswain. They should continuously call out estimated distances between the vessel and the victim.
- Attempt to come up alongside the person in the water (PIW) and stop for recovery. If there are windy weather conditions, maneuver upwind and then drift down to the PIW.
- Use a throwing line and be sure to throw over the victim. Do not employ a boat hook if the PIW is conscious.
- Recover the victim using a personal floatation device such as a life ring or a line under the arms.
- The victim and the situation should be under control in no more than three minutes.
Boating safety courses are offered free of charge by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadron.