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Safety: Be Careful Boating on the Potomac

Nice weather means more people, more boats and more danger.

Fairfax County fireboats will be on safety patrol on Saturday, May 26, along the Potomac River in the Mason Neck area. 

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue has a few fundamental tips for boaters before they embark on voyages: 

  • Don't drink and boat. Boating while intoxicated is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. The "designated driver" system doesn't work in boating. Everyone is at risk because the boat's motion, coupled with alcohol, increases the chances of losing balance and falling overboard.
  • Everyone on the boat should wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device or life jacket. It's the best protection against drowning.
  • Check the weather and water conditions before leaving the shore. If it looks like storms are brewing or the water is very choppy, wait for another day to go boating.
  • Limit the number of passengers in a small boat. Don't exceed the limit allowed by the boat's capacity plate. Keep in mind the size and weight of each person — equal distribution of weight will reduce the possibility of capsizing.
  • Have visual distress devices approved by the Coast Guard on board. Pyrotechnic red flares, orange smoke, orange distress flags, and electric distress lights must be in good working order and easily accessible.
  • Use the "one-third rule" in fuel management. Use one-third of the fuel to go, one-third to get back, and keep one-third in reserve.
  • Always tell someone where you will be boating, when you will be back, what your boat looks like and other identifying information.

"Recreational boating is second only to highway transportation in the number of fatalities that occur each year," according to a County Fire and Rescue news release. "Alcohol is involved in most of these accidents."

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