What do I do if I go overboard?

Of the 55 fatalities from boating accidents in 2015 in Florida, 22 were caused by falling overboard. That’s over 40 percent of all fatalities. This is still the main cause of boating deaths. Though other injuries may occur from falling overboard, the most common cause of death is drowning, accounting for 64 percent of all fatalities.

If you are involved in a boating accident and go overboard, it’s vital that you don’t panic. Thrashing about can zap all of your energy and, at the very worst, attract unwelcome wildlife. Instead, use your voice. Yell out as loud as you can, “MAN OVERBOARD,” along with either “port” or “starboard,” depending on which side you fell off of. This will attract both your own boat and any others in the area. Keep yelling until you get someone’s attention.

A spotter should point out your location as soon as they see you. They should keep pointing at you until the boat is with you. Otherwise, your location could be quickly lost in the waves. When the boat gets to you, someone should throw a floatation device toward you (hopefully you will be wearing a life vest already). When you are finally able to get onto the boat, make sure you are securely seated and uninjured before taking off again.

The best way to avoid falling over is to remain seating whenever you can. This is especially true if you have been drinking. You may find yourself teetering on dry land, and the rocking of the boat can make it even worse. Even if you are completely sober, make sure to always wear a life vest — or, at the very least, have one within reach.