This Simple Boating Safety Tip Could Save Your Life


This might be the most important blog post you ever read…

Last week we published a blog post about the 10 essential things fishermen need on their boats.

We got some great feedback, including this simple, yet potentially life-saving tip from Insider member, Randy Jones:

Always know where you are so that in case of an emergency, you can tell a 911 operator where to find you.

Randy is a retired Operations Chief for the City of Fort Myers Fire Department, and has been a part of developing emergency response strategies for dozens of counties for several decades.

Here’s what he told us:

“…The biggest time-consuming, life-threatening issue for any of us responding to a boating or waterbased emergency is precisely locating and responding to it.

There are no addresses for the 911 operator to read off her screen when you are calling from a boat.

The biggest key factor is boater knowledge of where you are pertaining to a known specific point of land.

It is an absolute MUST that you or someone onboard be able to identify ANY adjacent or nearby landmarks.

In some or many cases the Coast Guard may be miles away and the nearest emergency response via water may be a local Fire Department or City-County entity.

Again it is VITAL that you or someone onboard can name a specific “known” nearby point of reference.

In many areas dialing 911 while on the water starts a long, time-consuming process of getting a precise location.

Until they know your exact location, a 911 operator has no idea which agency is the nearest to transfer the call to for response.

Imagine if you or your panic-stricken wife, child, husband or a friend says “We are in the river and I think it’s a heart attack!” or  “We are next to a next to a Channel Marker 108”!

However, if you say, “We are in the Caloosahatchee River 1/2 a mile from the HWY 31 bridge,” it is far more specific and is immediately directed to Ft Myers Shores FD and City of Ft Myers FD, and PD all with water rescue / Fire/ Police Boat response capabilities.

When a 911 operator hears the word “BOAT”  it’s not uncommon for them to instinctively transfer the call to the US Coast Guard, which in some cases may be the St. Petersburg Group or Ft Myers Beach.

They will be able to eventually identify Channel Marker 108 with a corresponding cell tower, but then they have to relay it back again to the dispatch center and then from there to the nearest capable responding agency.

As first responders, we have what we call the “Golden Hour” which is generally classed as the 60 minutes that make the biggest difference in a life or death emergency.

If the first 15 minutes is burned by trying to identify a precise location, then the next 15 or more following that will be getting us to the scene.

While you are out boating or fishing please occasionally take a second and identify a nearby local pier,  hotel,  waterfront restaurant, water tower, marina, boat ramp, etc. that you or someone else can help a dispatcher better pinpoint your location.

This is even a concern when using a VHF radio, as most transmissions can be triangulated by the Coast Guard.

At that point even then, once they triangulate you 50 miles away up in the Manatee or Caloosahatchee Rivers, the call will be made (by Coast Guard) to to the local nearest 911 dispatch center who again has to identify the nearest agency to that triangulated point.

It is so much easier on everyone if someone could just say “I am in the Manatee River and looking at the I-75 bridge”!  That will do it!

Minutes seem like hours in an emergency response and I have been on both ends of these calls.

It is forever heartbreaking when you can’t identify a location and someone is possibly dying.”


boating safety

Thanks for the tip, Randy!

So the next time you’re out on the water, take a second to locate a well-known landmark just in case you need to tell emergency responders where to find you.

Have any questions about boating safety?

Let us know in the comments below!

P.S. Know someone who needs to see this tip? TAG or SHARE this with them!

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roy l noblin
2 years ago

this is very good info but depending where you are as to if you can even get cel service and then try and explain where you are takes time. a Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon is not cheap but the best dollars you will have ever spent if ever needed. it says personal but just being on the boat and registered to the boat owner will immediately dispatch the coast guard to your precise location as it transmits where you are. as the coast guard is launching the center will call the phone number you set up to be called so if false alarm the dispatch can be stopped. if no answer you will see a helicopter over head in a very short time. i think mine cost me 250 and so far it has not been needed and i sure hope it never is.

Jeffrey Green
2 years ago

Good read. This is great reminder of safety and knowing your surroundings.

2 years ago

Good to know

2 years ago

Good to know


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