As Hurricane Bill approaches, the U.S. Coast Guard offers the following safety tips:
• Stay informed. The public should monitor the progress and strength of Bill through local television, radio and Internet. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF Channel 16, the marine emergency channel. Information on small craft advisories and warnings can also be found on VHF Channel 16.
• Evacuate as necessary. If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public is urged to heed evacuation orders. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate those in danger during the storm.
• Secure seagoing vessels and gear. Vessel owners are urged to double-check their mooring lines and secure life rings, life jackets and other loose items, preventing their vessel and equipment from breaking free and causing damage.
Adrift, unmanned paddle craft such as canoes and kayaks are considered a sign of distress and rescuers must divert assets to search for a potential missing person. Securing gear allows the Coast Guard to use assets more effectively for search and rescue.
• Be cautious of hazardous materials. If you have hazardous materials on or near the water, you are responsible for any spills that may occur. Take the necessary precautions to secure them before any heavy weather.
• Drawbridges. Mariners are reminded that drawbridges along the coast may deviate from normal operating procedures before a storm. They are generally authorized to remain closed up to eight hours before the approach of gale-force winds of 34 knots or greater, and whenever an evacuation is ordered.
Tips for swimmers on how to avoid and survive rip currents:
• Never swim alone.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out.
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
• If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim toward shore or a boat.
• If you are unable to swim out of a rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim toward shore or a boat. If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by facing the shore or boat, waving your arms, and yelling for help.
If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 911. Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.