Thursday, June 30, 2005

Editorial: Be prepared

Published in the Current

(June 30, 2005): Even before Wednesday afternoon's storm took out power and roads, it was important to be careful when boating, as eight people learned last weekend in the ocean off Cape Elizabeth.

None of the boaters were hurt, which is fortunate, but their boats sank, reminding them and all who recreate on the water that the ocean is a fun place, but has its dangers.

And now, in light of the recent high winds, torrential downpour and lightning strikes, it's even more evident that people heading out onto the water - or even out for a hike, bike ride, picnic or drive - need to have a plan in case the unexpected happens.

As Cape Elizabeth Water Extrication Team Capt. Joe Mokry noted in our Page 1 article, a lot of people are not making those plans, even skipping something as simple as making sure the cell phone is fully charged before an outing.

If people are stuck somewhere or have to take a different route, they can be delayed. Without the ability to communicate with friends and loved ones, those left at home may call the authorities and have them begin a search, risking emergency workers' lives.

There's nothing wrong with calling out all the police, fire, ambulance and water rescue people who are needed, if people are really in danger.

But if there is a way to avoid doing so - if people are really fine, just anchored in a cove to ride out a high wind, for example - a simple cell phone or radio call can save rescuers a lot of time, and the folks at home a lot of worry.

There are plenty of people - and I am one - who would rather not hear a cell phone ring in the middle of the woods or out on the deck of a boat rocking on a lazy sea. But you don't have to spoil the outdoors to be safe.

Bring the cell phone, but turn it off unless you need it. If you're running late, turn it on and make that call. On a boat in a fog bank or on a bike trapped by rising floodwaters, a cell phone suddenly changes from a wilderness-ruiner to a lifesaver.

Taking a few precautions can help you stay safe, and can help those who are prepared to come to our rescue stay as safe as they can, too.

Jeff Inglis, editor