Boating safety stressed

Published 10:17 pm Friday, June 28, 2013

The Suffolk Police Department’s Marine Patrol boat supervises Independence Day festivities on the Chuckatuck Creek in 2010. Boating safety will be a prime concern of the police department this holiday week and throughout the summer, a spokesman says.

The Suffolk Police Department’s Marine Patrol boat supervises Independence Day festivities on the Chuckatuck Creek in 2010. Boating safety will be a prime concern of the police department this holiday week and throughout the summer, a spokesman says.

As they are every year, Suffolk’s waterways will be a key feature of Thursday’s Fourth of July celebrations around the city. Boaters are expected to be out in force.

Add the mixture of public holiday excitement and, in many cases, alcohol, and the risk of tragedy is ever-present.

The Suffolk Police Department normally staffs its Marine Patrol full-time during the summer, and they certainly won’t be taking a break Thursday, according to city spokesman Tim Kelley.

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“We have officers on a regular schedule patrolling the waterways,” Kelley stated. “Specifically on the Fourth of July, the Marine Patrol will be assisting the city at various functions along the river.”

The city receives regular help patrolling Suffolk waters from the Virginia Marine Police and the Coast Guard, Kelley added.

Meanwhile, The National Safe Boating Council is reminding boaters about the importance of being safe during a holiday with high boating traffic.

“For some people, Fourth of July celebrations may be the only time they get on a boat the entire summer,” the council’s executive director, Virgil Chambers, stated in a news release.

“Whether you’re an experienced or new boater, always boat responsibly and wear a life jacket.”

The council is encouraging boaters to take its Boating Safety Pledge before July 4. The pledge is shared with others via Facebook and Twitter, and can be taken at www.safeboatingcampaign.com/camp-pledge.htm.

It’s also interested in hearing from boaters about personal boating stories with a safety message.

Stories can be silly or serious, the council says, and the best story wins a prize pack with a life jacket. Submit stories at www.safeboatingcampaign.com/camp-share.htm.

Ontario, Canada’s Doug Ramey, a previous contest winner, says wearing a life jacket “shouldn’t ever be an option.”

“In my opinion, no one is too cool or too strong of a swimmer to excuse themselves from wearing a life jacket,” he stated. “A life jacket is one of the easiest ways you can save your life in case of emergency.”

The council says that the life jackets available today are comfortable, stylish and flexible. “The bulky orange-style life jacket is a thing of the past,” it says.

The council is involved in the North American Safe Boating Campaign, funded with a grant from the Sports Fish Recreation and Boating Trust Fund and administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

About 500 people drown every year from recreational boating accidents, and 85 percent were not wearing life jackets, according to the Coast Guard.