Boat Safety Equipment Checklist

It is the boater’s legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their passengers. Everyone aboard should receive a safety briefing before departing from shore and complete a pre-departure checklist.

Boaters are responsible for showing passengers where the safety equipment is located and how to use it. As well as ensuring that the communication equipment is in good working order, everyone must be knowledgeable about its use. In an accident involving the driver, at least one other person on board should be able to operate the vessel. 

During the pre-launch process, the following topics should be discussed with all passengers to prevent accidents, increase safety, and speed up emergency response:

  • How to put on and use PFDs or life jackets
  • Use and placement of fire extinguishers
  • First-aid kit placement and use
  • Flares and other visual distress signals
  • Techniques for anchoring
  • Waste disposal and management
  • Procedures for responding to bad weather
  • Operation of emergency radios
  • A procedure for falls overboard

Boat operators should also train passengers in a mock emergency scenario to know what to expect. 

Pre-Departure Checklist

Personal Flotation Devices (Life jackets)
  • A minimum of two US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices must be carried on board by each passenger. 
  • If the boat measures more than 16 feet, it must also have a throwable type four PFD.
  • Ensure all your passengers know where the PFDs are.

Sound-Producing Devices
  • Have at least two sound-signaling devices, like an air horn or a bell.
  • A spare can of compressed air should also be packed if you carry an air horn.

  • Make sure you have all the navigation lights you need.
  • Always have a flashlight with you.

Proper Loading

Keeping the load of the boat to a minimum can ensure the boat’s safety. The operator should consult the capacity plate to indicate the number of passengers and the weight that the vessel can accommodate. 

There is a risk associated with overloading a boat with passengers and equipment. A large watercraft, for example, can dip under water or crash into small waves if it is too heavy. Additionally, boaters must ensure that their loads are evenly distributed, as an uneven load may make a watercraft unstable.



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