Requirements for Boat Safety Equipment

It is mandatory for an owner or operator of a Florida-registered vessel to carry, store, maintain, and use the safety equipment that is required by the federal specifications. The US Coast Guard has also adopted these guidelines.

Visual Distress Signals

Boats under 16 feet in length traveling in coastal waters between sunset and sunrise must carry visual distress signals approved by the US Coast Guard. For boats that are 16 feet or longer, at least three visual distress signals approved by the US Coast Guard must be carried for daytime and nighttime use. Visual distress signals that are electronic are readily available for nighttime use and are also permissible. 

Sound Signals

Boats must carry noise-producing signals such as a referee’s whistle, which is loud enough to be heard from a distance. However, the use of sirens is prohibited unless specifically permitted by law. 


The safety of recreational vessels, including personal watercraft, depends on the display of navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and at any time when visibility is limited. Every vessel, including personal watercraft, must meet lighting requirements specified in US Coast Guard Navigation Rules. It is prohibited to use flashing, occulting, or revolving lights, except as authorized by law.

Fire Extinguishers

If the boat contains a built-in fuel tank or enclosed compartments where gasoline fumes can accumulate, at least one marine-approved fire extinguisher must be carried. 

Diver-Down Flags

There are times when divers are out in the water, but no divers-down flag is displayed, making it challenging to observe Florida’s dive safety regulations. A divers-down flag must be displayed when a person is submerged in water and wearing a face mask, snorkel, or underwater breathing apparatus.

There are several rules for divers-down flags, including: 

  • The divers-down symbol must be present on all divers-down warning devices. The symbol is represented as a red rectangle or square with a white diagonal stripe through the middle. Symbols that are not rectangles must have a length equal to or greater than 25% of the height. There also must be a consistent orientation of the width of the stripe.
  • If a divers-down warning device is displayed on a boat, it must be positioned at the vessel’s highest point. There must be no obstruction to its visibility in any direction. 
  • Divers-down symbols differ in size based on whether they are displayed from the water or a vessel. Divers down symbols must be at least 12 x 12 inches in size while on the water. The size of the symbol on a vessel must be at least 20 by 24 inches.
  • A boat must slow down to idle speed when approaching divers-down warning devices within 300 feet of open water or 100 feet of rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
  • Divers-down warning devices consisting of flags must have the symbol on both faces and be constructed so that the symbol remains unfurled and extended even when there is no wind or breeze.
  • If a buoy is used as a divers-down device, it must be displayed on the water’s surface so that it visibly cannot be missed. The symbol must be prominently perceptible on the water’s surface and cannot be hidden on the vessel, between objects, or by any other means.
  • Divers must always stay within 100 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy. Divers should never try to swim away from a dive location and always stay with a companion underwater until it is safe to surface.
  • Divers-down warning devices should not be displayed when the diver is out of the water.

Personal Watercraft Safety Equipment

The engine cutoff switch lanyard is the connection between the operator’s personal flotation device and the pocket of the engine cutoff switch. It may be attached to any part of the body, clothing, or personal flotation device.



Take My Boat exam on a tablet