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App-lying Safe Practices with the USCG

Tue, Aug 04, 2015 at 3:35PM

This day and age, you can count on even us boaters to always have a smartphone in our hands (or at least not too far away). So it’s great news when we can put that tech to good use! In May, the United States Coast Guard released an app for iOS and Android devices that allows users to track the weather, request a boat safety check, brush up on boating rules and much, much more. The app also comes with the ability to file an extremely helpful “float plan” in case of emergencies—but more on that later!

The USCG created the app earlier this year in the hopes that its users would not only make themselves safer, but also make the water a safer place for fellow boaters. A big part of what make the app—named United States Coast Guard—different from other emergency response models is that it can be used for more than just a lifeline. You can file reports for anything you see on the water: pollution, navigational hazards, and other dangerous or suspicious activity all from the comfort and safety of your handheld device.

The app developers have also taken a big step in improving boaters’ personal safety and know-how while out on the water. Theoretically, you could find weather information, boating rules, and helpful tips with a quick Google search… but when you’re in a pinch and need this information fast, the USCG app allows you to access it all from the same place. Until now, no app has done so much—and certainly none have been able to connect you directly with the boating authority, the USCG itself.

We’re highlighting three of the app’s most helpful features: the float plan, emergency button, and location-specific weather updates.

The float plan: A float plan is a form you can fill out and share with friends or loved ones before you head out on the water. Its purpose is to help the Coast Guard find or assist you in the case that you do. For example, you fill out the USCG’s comprehensive float plan (which asks you how many people are on board, their names, what communication devices you have access to, your itinerary, etc.). You can share this plan with up to three friends every time you hit the water—just be sure to update information and your itinerary as necessary. If you don’t report back to them by a certain time, or they suspect you may need help, they can notify the USCG with that crucial information on hand.

The float plan exists to prevent “overdue” calls that aren’t backed with much (or any) identifying or helpful information that the USCG could use during an emergency. While the float plan itself isn’t new to the USCG, the ability to file one from your phone is… so if you forget to file one or need to make an update to your plan, it’s just a matter of accessing your phone and emailing the right people. The entire process is paperless, so you can eliminate the risk of someone losing or destroying your plan.

Emergency assistance: Need help out on the water? The USCG app makes calling out for emergency assistance easier than ever. Simply hit the red button at the bottom of the screen while in app, and you’ll be able to get in touch with emergency responders instantly.

The USCG does want to remind boaters that the app is no substitute for a VHF-FM marine radio, EPIRB, boating know-how and common sense—but it can be a great supplement to the safety measures you already have in place!

NOAA buoy weather information: You don’t have to depend on the morning weather to guide your route through the day. The USCG app includes a weather button, which you can access for weather information or alerts specific to your location based on the nearest NOAA buoy. This can prevent you from running into rough seas or storms on the water… and can help you streamline! There’s no need for three weather apps and an almanac on your phone when this app can give you the specific information you need all in one convenient place.

As we mentioned earlier, the USCG app isn’t just for on-the-water use. You can check on it throughout your day on land to brush up on helpful tips, or maybe (finally) schedule that vessel safety check you’ve been needing! No matter what you use it for, this app is a great resource for boaters who want to stay safe and mindful on the water—and with a price tag of exactly zero dollars, there’s no risk in downloading. You can download the app at the Apple Store or Google Play 

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