DEM offers COVID-19 safety guidelines for boaters

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As boating season gets underway, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is reminding boaters to follow COVID-19 safety precautions when out on the water.

The DEM on Monday offered some guidelines for boaters, saying they’re a key element of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to reopen the state’s economy.

“As boaters prepare to launch their vessels during the COVID-19 public health crisis, we’re reminding them to stay close to home and practice social distancing,” DEM Director Janet Coit said in a news release. “Responsible boaters know how important it is to wear a life jacket and take precautions to stay safe in cold water. This year, as we’re dealing with the public health emergency, we’re also asking boaters to take additional steps to protect themselves, their families, and the people around them so everyone can safely enjoy the boating season.”

The DEM urges boaters to adhere by the following rules:

  • Stay close to home.
  • Boat only with people in your immediate household.
  • Maintain distance of at least six feet from others and keep your distance on the water by not tying up to other boats or beaching near other boaters.
  • Plan ahead by packing hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and disposable gloves.
  • When fueling, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
  • When launching and loading your boat, give people ahead of you plenty of time and space to finish launching or loading before you approach.
  • Do not enter the marina office without an appointment.
  • While on the water, find a secluded spot away from others to relax.
  • Call ahead to your destination to make sure it is open and accepting visitors.
  • When returning, be prepared to dock or trailer with your own crew and avoid assistance.
  • Keep distance at the dock and dispose of trash according to marina rules.
  • If you are sick or exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days.

Captain Steven Criscione of the DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement also stressed the importance of wearing a life jacket during this time of year, since the water is still dangerously cold. He said falling in would likely cause cold water shock, which can quickly make it difficult to swim or call for help.

“The best way to prevent a tragedy from happening is to wear a life jacket – actually wear it, not just have it along,” Criscione said. “It’s the easiest and most effective way to prevent an unfortunate situation from turning into a tragedy.”

The DEM also advised people not to boat alone and to let someone on shore know where you’re going and when you plan to return.

For information on Rhode Island boating laws and regulations, including the mandatory boating safety education requirement and certification process, visit the DEM’s website or call (401) 222-2284.

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