The Department of Marine Resources encourages everyone to keep safety in the forefront while boating on Mississippi's coastal waters. Don't let misfortune find you unprepared. Before venturing out, be sure to file a float plan with a responsible friend or relative. The float plan should include the place of departure, destination points and expected times of arrival, the time of expected return, and the names of all individuals on-board. Advise the friend or relative to contact proper authorities, i.e. DMR's Marine Patrol Office or the U.S. Coast Guard, if you have not returned by an agreed upon time. It is of paramount importance that you do not deviate from the intended float plan. Should an emergency occur, valuable search and rescue time could be saved if a float plan has been properly filed and followed.
Before departure, a boat check should be performed to ensure the proper equipment is on board and functional. Remember, some equipment items such as visual distress signals, first aid kits and fire extinguishers have items with expiration dates where service or replacement is required.
Always be watchful for adverse weather conditions. A small National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio is an excellent way to constantly receive updated weather broadcasts, and severe weather warnings. NOAA also provides National Weather Service, which may be accessed via the Internet at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard provides emergency alerts and marine warning broadcasts on VHF channels 16 and 22 as conditions may warrant. Remember to have adequate communications on board your boat at all times. A VHF radio is the preferred equipment for marine use. Cell phones, although popular for communicating on land, have a limited use on the water. A cell phone should not be depended upon as your only form of communication. Also, remember to have personal floatation devices on the boat at all times (i.e. lifejackets).
Knowing the boat and water safety rules and regulations can save lives, and significantly reduce the possibility of accident or injury while on the water. For more information, please contact the Boat and Water Safety Bureau. To sign up for DMR Boating Safety Classes, register online at www.mdwfp.com/law-enforcement/boater-education.aspx.