Boating emergencies are something we never think will happen to us but they can strike at any time and come in various forms and degrees of severity. The key to safe, enjoyable boating is being prepared and having the right knowledge. You may not be able to predict the unexpected–but you can prepare for it.

If you find yourself in a boating emergency, you should:

  1. Remain calm
  2. Properly assess the situation and then take appropriate action
  3. Ensure your own safety and that of your passengers
  4. If necessary, signal your need for help using a recognized distress signal

What to Do in a Boating Emergency

The following will help you respond effectively in an emergency:

  • Always ensure that passengers and crew members are wearing a PFD or life jacket
  • The Small Vessel Regulations require that certain vessels carry an emergency kit (keep the proper equipment and supplies onboard to stop hull leaks and make minor on-water repairs)
  • Carry a first aid kit onboard at all times
  • If you or any of your passengers have been injured: Whoever is closest to the injured person should assess the victim’s breathing and administer first aid if necessary

Boater using hand signals to indicate distress

Remember to always keep a lookout for other boaters signaling distress or who are in need of assistance. If you have witnessed a distress signal or an emergency situation, you are required by law to help other boaters as long as it is safe to do so.

Safe Boating Tip: Would you know how to perform rescue-breathing techniques in an emergency? Have you ever treated a person suffering from hypothermia? If you don’t know how to handle these types of emergencies, you should take a first aid course. If an emergency arises, you’ll be able to respond quickly–you may even be able to prevent permanent injury or death.