News Release
City Services

May 16, 2014

City Officials, U.S. Coast Guard And Boating Industry StakeHolders Promote Safe And Fun Summer On Lake Michigan And Chicago River

FREE Vessel Safety Checks and Boat Safety Courses Across the Region from the Coast Guard Auxiliary

OEMC Media Affairs    312.746.9454

LT Simone Mausz|U.S. Coast Guard    630.986.2132

CHICAGO – As temperatures continue to rise heading into the Memorial Day weekend and much anticipated summer season, officials from the City’s public safety departments, the U.S. Coast Guard and more than a dozen regional boating and water safety industry associations today emphasized safe boating during National Boating Safety Week, which kicks-off tomorrow and runs through May 23, 2014.

“Chicago’s lakefront and river serve as an oasis for families and friends to enjoy during warm weather and all summer long,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “As millions of residents and visitors from around the world enjoy our beaches, marinas, tour boats and Navy Pier this summer, it’s important that they are informed of water safety precautions so they have a safe and fun experience.”

Boating and water recreation safety on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River is a priority of the City of Chicago and the Coast Guard. According to Coast Guard statistics, 560 boaters died on our nation’s waterways in 2013. 78 of those deaths occurred in the Great Lakes region. Among those nationwide, 77% of fatal boating accident victims drowned and of those who drowned, 84%were not wearing a life jacket. Small recreational vessels, including paddle craft, are the most vulnerable.Eight of every 10 boaters who drowned were using boats less than 21 feet in length.

In addition, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents--it’s responsible for 16 percent of boater deaths and vessel collisions are the most frequent accident type.

“Illinois has a very wide variety of boaters that frequently operate in very close proximity to each other,” stated Captain Jason Neubauer, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Chicago. “It’s absolutely critical that we educate all waterway users on basic operating rules and safe practices.”

Whether it is extreme hot temperatures, rain, thunderstorms or high winds, weather affect one’s ability to safely maneuver on the water. OEMC encourages the public to learn more about the safety tips offered by the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary. These tips can save lives and prevent water accidents and emergencies.

“Boating and lakefront activities are ramping up along our waterways in Chicago. There is no time like the present to remind lakefront visitors to be safe, be prepared and exercise caution and common sense while enjoying activities along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River this summer,” said Gary W. Schenkel, OEMC Executive Director.

Area boaters are urged to follow these principles to ensure a safe summer season on the water: 

Stay Afloat – Life jackets save lives.

According to Coast Guard studies, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Of the remaining 16 percent, many were either wearing a model that was not designed to keep their head out of the water after the wearer lost consciousness or not wearing a life jacket at all.

While there are many factors that can contribute to boating accidents, a properly fitting life jacket can save a life even after an accident has occurred. 

Stay Prepared and Informed –FREE Vessel Safety Checks and Boat Safety Courses from the
Coast Guard Auxiliary.

According to a Coast Guard study, of the 560 fatalities in 2013, only 13 percent involved an operator who received boating safety instruction from courses meeting the U.S. Coast Guard recognized national standards.

The Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters (including personal watercraft users) take advantage of the free vessel safety check program every year. VSCs are offered by experienced members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons, two of the nation’s premier volunteer boating safety organizations. A VSC is the best possible way to learn about potential violations of state and federal requirements. But more importantly, these quick exams can keep your boat and passengers out of harm’s way.

Free vessel examinations and boating safety information classes are available to the public in locations conveniently located across the region. The Auxiliary will accommodate boaters on the following dates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:

• May 17    Whalon Lake Park, Royce Rd, west of Route 53/Bolingbrook Dr in Naperville
                Marine Services, 14001 Cottage Grove Ave, Dolton, IL
                LaGrange Park District, 536 East Ave., La Grange, IL

• May 24   Heritage Harbor, 1851 Old Chicago Rd, Ottawa, IL

The boating safety courses cover many topics to provide a foundation of operational and safety instruction. The courtesy examinations can uncover safety deficiencies that can be remedied prior to leaving the dock. Visit to learn more about Vessel Safety Checks or to find a certified examiner near you.

Stay Alert – Don’t Boat Under the Influence.

Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents—it’s responsible for 16 percent of boater deaths. Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker's impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator's coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol than consuming alcohol on land.

Stay in Touch – Have the Right Type of Communication Device.

Cell phone coverage is often spotty, so having a reliable VHF-FM marine radio on-hand is recommended for communications during times of distress. Consider purchasing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) if you boat alone = or offshore.When activated, these devises can be used by responders to identify the location of distressed boaters.

Other safety tips for boat operators, passengers and swimmers include:

• Know the weather and water conditions before boating or swimming
• Never swim alone and always swim near life guards
• Always wear a lifejacket. Don’t just store it. Putting a life jacket on is much harder once you’re in the water—especially if you’re injured
• Check local rip current forecasts, and never swim in rough water
• Be aware of carbonmonoxide hazards in and around a boat, and maintain a continuous flow of fresh air
• File a float plan; give the information to a friend or relative who can call for help if you do not return as scheduled.
• Maintain a clear unobstructed view forward at all times. Most boating collisions are caused by obstruction or distraction.
• Observe the nautical rules of the water, including speed limits
• Learn C.P.R. and first aid
• Ensure children are always supervised and wearing a life jacket
• Stop the engine when boarding or exiting the boat
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