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Boating Preparedness

Being prepared for a boating trip involves many factors, including but not limited to: taking a safe boating course; filing a float plan; checking the weather before and during a trip; and ensuring that the boat has all required safety equipment onboard.

Best Practices

Read BoatBeat’s General Best Practices, in addition to the following tips, for more recommendation and information.

  • Float Plan: Identify that the reason the family or friends notified the U.S. Coast Guard their loved one had not returned from their boating excursion is because the victim had filed a float plan with the family or trusted friends before he departed. Learn more at
  • Safety Equipment: Stress the importance of boaters doing a safety equipment check each boating excursion. Learn about required and recommended equipment, as well as free vessel safety checks. For example, a lot of boaters do not have flare guns, or have expired flare guns, and do not have a fire extinguisher.
  • National Weather Service (NWS): Share information on how to contact the National Weather Service and how to obtain up-to-the-minute weather information including small craft advisories before they leave port. This would prepare boaters for boating in bad weather.
  • Distress Alert: Include what kind of distress alert the U.S. Coast Guard responded to and how the boaters “notified” the U.S. Coast Guard (i.e., did they use a VHF DSC radio, cell phone, PLB or EPIRB).
  • Channel 16: Highlight the importance of interagency cooperation through the use of urgent marine information broadcast (UMIB) on channel 16 of a VHF-FM marine radio.
  • EPIRB or PLB: Note if the boater was equipped with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and/or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and whether they knew how to use it to report that they needed help. Discuss EPRIBs and PLBs and their life-saving qualities, including how NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard work with local search and rescue teams.
  • Registration: Stress that after purchasing an EPIRB or PLB, one’s first step should be to register the device with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at
  • Cell Phones: Remind boaters that a cell phone may fail, and a boater should always have another means of communication, such as a VHF DSC radio and EPIRB or PLB.
  • Life Jackets: Identify whether children and other passengers were wearing life jackets to reinforce the importance of always wearing a life jacket.
  • Maintenance: Discuss the importance of preventative boating maintenance.

Fact Sheets

Boating Safety Tips

Boating Safety Equipment Check List

Carriage of Fire Extinguishers

Vessel Safety Checks

Reporters Play a Critical Role in Boating Safety

Browse All Fact Sheets

Expert Sources

U.S. Coast Guard, Office of Auxiliary & Boating Safety

National Safe Boating Council (NSBC)

National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

United States Power Squadrons

National Weather Service

BoatU.S. Foundation
Browse Federal and State Point-of-Contacts

External Resources

NASBLA-Approved Boating Courses by State

State-By-State Boater Education Requirements


Case Study Sources