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Follow the law: 

"a person shall wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD or life jacket) during the cold weather months (November 1st through April 30th) while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak."

Cold water shock is a major factor in boating fatalities when water temperatures are less than 70 degrees F. Cold water shock causes an involuntary gasp (often resulting in aspiration of water), hyperventilation, breathlessness and a reduced ability to control breathing and swim. A life jacket greatly increases your chance for survival in cold water. It also increases the amount of time for you to be rescued.

A disproportionate number of boating fatalities occur during the months of November through April in Pennsylvania and cold water is one of the primary reasons. 

Here are some cold water survival safety tips:

    • Always wear a life jacket, even when not required. Many models offer insulation from cold air.
    • Never boat alone.
    • Leave a float plan and know the waters you plan to boat.
    • Bring a fully-charged cell phone with you in case of emergency.
    • Wear clothing that still insulates when wet such as fleece, polypropylene or other synthetics.
    • If you are about to fall into cold water, cover your mouth and nose with your hands. This will reduce the likelihood of inhaling water.
    • If possible, stay with the boat. Get back into or climb on top of the boat.
    • While in cold water, do not remove your clothing. 
    • If you can't get out of the water, get into the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP).
    • Once out of the water, get out of the wet clothes and warmed up as soon as possible.

Boating accidents must be reported in writing by the boat operator or owner to the PFBC when:
    • A person dies or disappears.
    • A person is injured and requires advanced medical treatment beyond first aid.
    • Damage to the boat and other property totals more than $2,000, or there is a complete loss of the vessel.

File a boating accident report or contact one of our regional law enforcement offices.