Huddles are not just for football players

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2004

Over the past few weeks we have reviewed a number of the great boating safety recommendations provided by the Sportsmen’s Forum in the latest edition of &uot;Boating Tips For Hunters and Anglers.&uot; The Sportsmen’s Forum, you may remember, is part of a U.S. Coast Guard Grant conducted in partnership with the NRA, B.A.S.S., Ducks Unlimited, Cabela’s, the North American Hunting and Fishing Clubs, NASBLA, and the BoatUS Foundation.

Today we look at the use of a huddle in boating situations. Think of the term huddle and what comes to mind? Football, right? Huge lineman and fast running backs come together to plot the next play.

Well, the idea of bringing people together in a tight circle applies to recovering from a Boating Safety situation as it does to getting a football play executed correctly. Here’s a situation: During the winter months several fishermen are motoring toward a favorite spot in the open water and experience an accident, such as hitting a deadhead, which is a floating log or debris only partially visible from a vessel. The accident causes all to be ejected into the water. What should the occupants do if stranded?

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The Sportsmen’s Forum correctly recommends that &uot;when several people are stranded in the water, they should form a huddle. Facing inward, they should link their arms over each other’s shoulders or under each other’s arms to get as close as possible, to share as much heat as possible.&uot;

What should you do if children or seniors are involved? Because of the heat that will be generated by the establishment of a huddle you want to make sure that seniors and children are moved to the middle. According to the Sportsmen’s Forum two or more people that are huddled together can increase overall survival time by 50 percent, which can be significant in a search and rescue situation.

This reinforces another key point that you hear from me usually once every few months. Situations like the one described above underscores the need for all people onboard, from Olympic swimmers to 9 year olds, to wear a personal floatation device or PFD. Wearing a PFD provides an even better chance of successfully creating a huddle – and surviving!

Until next week…boat safe…and boat smart!

Joe DiRenzo III is a retired Coast Guard officer who is a Maritime Homeland Security Technical director for Anteon’s Center for Security Strategies and Operations.