Emergency Protocol

It is important to be prepared if an emergency occurs while you are out on the water. In an emergency, the first thing is to stay calm, and ensure everyone on board is wearing their life jacket.

Boat Emergency Procedures

Follow these procedures in case of a boat emergency. Survey the situation and then use the radio for help. It’s important to know the name of your boat, the location of your boat, how many people are on board, and the type of emergency.

Person Overboard

Alert the vessel operator of the situation and throw a lifering to the person to further assist in spotting and to keep the person afloat. The boat operator should immediately reduce speed and come around the person overboard. Always come from downwind or against the waves to avoid drifting over the person overboard. To retrieve the person from the water, use a buoyant heaving lines and life buoys.


Stay with your boat. Is always much easier to see a capsized boat than a person in the water. Climb into the upturned boat to reduce the chance of hypothermia.

Breakdowns, Hull Leaks and Flooding

Remember, the best prevention against breakdown is to maintain the equipment on a regular basis so that it is functioning properly at all times. In the event of flooding or hull leaks locate the source of the leak and try to spot the leakage, if possible. Remove accumulations of water in the bilge or other compartments by using hand-help bailers, manual pumps or bilge pumping systems.Use or exhibit signals to indicate distress and need of assistance.

Weather Emergencies

Weather can change rapidly and create unexpected emergencies for boat operators. Always watch for changes in the weather and monitor the forecast. As an operator, it is your responsibility to take appropriate action based on the weather. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.

Radio Procedures

If the boat has a radio tune it to channel 16 (US Coast Guard) and clearly say “MAYDAY” three times for life threatening emergencies or “SECURITE" for safety emergencies that are non-life threatening (other thing you can do on non-treating situations such as run out of fuel or electric problems is to anchor your boat and call a towing service). Distress call should be made on Channel 16 (156.8 MHz) using a very high frequency radio VHF. The basic calling procedure is:

  1. Mayday, mayday, mayday
  2. Vessel's name and position
  3. Description and boat registration number
  4. Number of people on board
  5. Details of your emergency

Visit our next section to learn about the essential boat safety equipment that you should have on board at all times.