For Immediate Release - September 10, 2009

Massachusetts Environmental Police Remind Citizens to Wear Life Jackets, Practice Safe Boating This Fall and Winter

BOSTON - With fall weather almost here, the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) remind boaters that state law requires canoeists and kayakers to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times from September 15 through May 15.

"Boaters should wear life jackets year-round, but during cool and cold weather months, it's the law in Massachusetts," MEP Director Aaron Gross said. "Wearing a life jacket could save you from an unwelcome visit from an enforcement officer, and - much more important - it could save your life."

The MEP point out that beautiful fall days mask water temperatures that are dangerously cold. If paddlers capsize or fall overboard, they can succumb within minutes to hypothermia (the lowering of a person's internal body temperature), which deadens arms and legs and renders a victim unable to swim, paddle, or stay afloat. A related danger, the "cold-water-immersion-reflex" - whereby a victim, shocked by frigid water, involuntarily gasps and ingests a significant amount of water - can lead to death by drowning.

Massachusetts boating regulations require that all persons aboard canoes and kayaks between September 15 and May 15 wear a Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, or III PFD at all times while a boat is underway. In addition, the Environmental Police recommend wearing a PFD as standard practice year-round, and remind boaters that children under 12 are required to wear PFDs in boats of all types throughout the year. While most Type I, II, and III lifejackets will not prevent hypothermia, they do give the victim one less thing to worry about: staying afloat.

In the 13 fatal boating accidents in Massachusetts during 2008, 12 of the victims were not wearing life jackets. In the eight fatal boating accidents so far in 2009, six of the victims were not wearing life jackets. Nationally, hundreds of people drown in boating-related accidents each year, and eight out of every ten victims weren't wearing life jackets at their time of death.

Life jackets used for compliance with Massachusetts law must be approved by the United States Coast Guard with a clearly marked USCG approval number, in good and serviceable condition, and the correct size for the intended wearer. Boaters should frequently inspect a life jacket's condition, looking for rips, tears, discoloration, weakened material, insecure straps or zippers, or labels that are not readable.

In addition to wearing life jackets, officials urge boaters to take a boating safety course, operate boats only while sober, and make sure their boats have safety equipment onboard. Visit http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dle/boatrvsafe.htm for links to the MEP boating course schedule, other approved course providers, and information about state boating laws.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' Office of Law Enforcement - also known as the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) - is responsible for enforcing the Commonwealth's fish and game and boating and recreational vehicle laws. MEP officers enforce laws and regulations related to the protection of natural resources and public parks and land; boat and recreational vehicle use; and hazardous waste disposal. MEP officers serve as stewards of the state's natural resources, patrolling forests, parks, inland waterways and coastal waters throughout the Commonwealth.