The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission held its quarterly business meeting today in Erie. Each item on the agenda has an impact, but one was wide reaching including Johnstown area waterways. There were awards given before the meeting including two from the Cambria County Conservation District. They also tackled the sale of PFBC property in Lackawanna County, Bass restrictions on the lower Susquehanna River and the re-establishment of a fishery in Cumberland County. But one decision has a wide reach across Pennsylvania.
The major change was to PFD regulations. The commission has changed the regulations to require all boaters to wear PFD’s during the cold weather months. This means that PFD’s are required for all Johnstown boaters between November 1 and April 30. This policy applies to all boats of 16 feet or less and includes all canoes and kayaks. In the past, PFD usage was only mandatory for children 12 and under. This policy will still be in effect during the warm weather months.
The action was deemed necessary because of the increase risk during cold weather. The frequency of boating mishaps is greater during the summer than during cold weather. Only eight percent of boating mishaps happen during the cold weather season. But this period of time accounts for twenty-four percent of the boating fatalities. This is because of the increased number of boaters on the waterways. However, more often boating mishaps in cold weather have a definite increase in percent of fatalities.
The action also comes in one of the worst seasons for boating fatalities in years. After only 7 boat fatalities in 2010, by mid-August there were already 19 boating fatalities. These fatalities have occurred on rivers, as well as small and large lakes. Most involved people not wearing a PFD. And according to the United States Coast Guard 80% of boating fatalities involve someone not wearing a PFD.
The biggest danger is from cold water immersion. Cold water immersion takes place with water less than 70 degrees. While in cold water, a person loses energy quicker. With a PFD, you have to expend less energy to stay afloat. The PFD also adds addition insulation.
However, just having a PFD is not a guarantee of survival. Another factor is getting warm and staying dry. When boating in cold weather you should be prepared for the cold water. And don’t shy away from a dry suit especially when paddling. Make sure that you have dry clothes to change into if you should end up in the water.
So remember to wear that PFD starting November 1. It’s part of the regulations.
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