As the frequency and severity of storm events increase across the country, it is important that boaters prioritise safety.
Dangerous flooding has hit multiple Australian states hard this year. Tens of thousands have been forced out of their homes as a result of relentless torrential rain, which caused rivers to burst and overflow.
You’ve probably seen footage on the news of people kayaking, paddling surfboards, and boating through flooded areas. However, many people do not realise that boating in flooded waters is extremely unsafe and should only be done in life-threatening situations.
Here’s more on why.
Flood waters may look calm on the surface, but unknown submerged objects pose a dangerous risk. Structures, such as fences, trees, buildings, and other objects, may be just below the surface and could easily damage and sink a vessel.
Even if you think you know the lay of the land, flood waters can move debris into previously clear areas, such as ovals or car parks, so it’s impossible to know if a flooded area is truly safe.
Strong currents are common in flood waters, and it can be difficult to know what conditions are like until you get on the water. Operating a vessel in strong currents is a challenge in normal conditions, let alone with the added variables that come with flood waters.
On top of this, currents are also capable of knocking over objects such as powerlines, which may lead to electrocution and sometimes death.
Relying on buoys and other markers is challenging in flood conditions, as they may have moved positions or become damaged. As a result, navigating a boat in flood waters may lead you into even more dangerous conditions.
Even beacons may be damaged or destroyed in floods, which makes it even more challenging to navigate during a flood.
What If I Have to Boat During a Flood?
Unless you are in a life-or-death situation, you should never take a boat out in a flood. If you are in a situation where you feel the only option is to escape by boat, then always do so with another person who can keep a lookout for submerged objects and other dangers.
Ensure everyone onboard wears a properly fitted life vest that complies with Australian safety standards and carries an EPIRB so you can communicate with emergency services. Bringing rope is also a good idea, as you can secure your boat if necessary.
Avoid entering flood waters for any reason. If you need to rescue a person, throw them a rope instead of getting into the water yourself. Low temperatures can lead to hypothermia, and the risk of the rescuer drowning is high.
Tips to Recover Safely from the Water After Floods
There are some things you should do before you get on the water.
- Remove the bungs from your boat if it has been stored on land. This will allow any rainwater to drain out of the boat. Do not forget to replace them!
- Pump out any water that has collected on your boat and inspect it for damage. Make sure that your electrical systems are working correctly and are dry.
Once your craft has been checked, you can go out on the water. However, it is important to use caution when boating or paddling, as conditions may remain dangerous.
- Check for debris or damage to the boat ramp or local landing area that could make it unsafe to launch your vessel or retrieve it.
- When you are out on the water, the channel location and depth may change. It is possible that sand banks and mud banks might be in new areas.
- You may find debris in the water after flooding has ended, whether in estuaries or at sea. It could be difficult to spot because it might be submerged. Slow down and pay attention.
- Navigation markers may be damaged or lost, and charts could be incorrect if channels are moved, so use extreme caution when navigating.
- Estuary and ocean water can contain contaminants like sewage as well as dead animals or chemicals washed off farms. Avoid touching floodwater. Always wash and disinfect anything that comes into contact with floodwater.
- Always wear a life jacket and stay up to date on the latest news.
- Marine Rescue volunteers can help you if there is an emergency on the water. However, prevention is always better than cure.
Boating or paddling during a flood is incredibly dangerous, even if it may seem like a fun thing to do. You should only boat in flood waters if you’re in a life-threatening situation and there are no other options available. Your personal safety and the safety of your loved ones must always come first.
Flash flooding events are not new to many Australians, and Mother Nature continues to threaten our forests and rivers with natural disasters that we cannot humanly and possibly prevent.
We can, however, in times like these, be more prepared and more proactive in protecting our investments.
It is always a good idea to protect yourself against perilous weather conditions.
We can provide you with cover for your vessel. Get in touch to find out more.