Boating safety checks urged
GREENWICH — The town’s emergency-service providers are appealing to the public to make safety a priority as the summer boating season commences.
“We want everyone to check their safety devices and mechanicals,” Sgt. Michael O’Connor said at a news briefing Thursday at Greenwich Harbor. “We’ve had boats sink because of mechanical problems — as simple as a hose getting loose.”
The Greenwich Police Department’s marine unit has already made its first rescue of the season, pulling two boaters to safety in local waters earlier this month. A malfunctioning piece of equipment, not negligent maintenance, caused that problem, police said.
But the marine unit has seen boats sink because of poor oversight and maintenance, O’Connor said. Boaters should always check their equipment carefully before they head out for the first cruise of the year, he said.
In general, the police sergeant said, boaters should always take extra precautions to avoid trouble. “It’s a lot harder to get help on the water than on land,” he said.
While it is not mandatory, a first-aid kit is always a good thing to have onboard a boat.
A marine medic, Dennis Fogler, also advised the public to call in a medical emergency as quickly as possible — and not to try to take a person in medical distress to shore on their own.
Fogler, an operations manager with the Greenwich Emergency Medical Service, said that paramedics are out on the water with their police counterparts every weekend throughout the boating season, and they can resolve a medical emergency in a timely manner.
“I carry all the medication I do on an ambulance,” Fogler said. When minutes count, it is best to get a paramedic into action as quickly as possible. “I can treat any type of situation on the boat that I can in an ambulance. It’s better to call us — don’t hesitate. It speeds up the process.”
The primary police and fire boat can achieve high speeds with its jet-type engines, and it has medical equipment and a stretcher on board. The department operates three boats.
The town’s paramedics and police units typically respond to 10 to 20 medical calls during the season, usually involving heart attacks, strokes, hypoglycemia and injuries, Fogler said. People with diabetes should be particularly careful while boating on hot days.
“They don’t realize how hot it is, and dehydration and diabetes, it can cause problems,” the paramedic said.
The Greenwich marine unit is the only one in the region that has a paramedic serving onboard during weekend patrols. Paramedics can be quickly called into action for medical emergencies on the water on weekdays. The unit primarily covers the Greenwich waterfront but can been called out to assist other communities around Long Island Sound.