As many of you are aware, through the recent outreach efforts I have been making to our FPC members, it is time to tighten up on the way in which we manage our safety programs on poker run events. It’s no secret to any of us, that powerboating accidents continue to claim lives and injure innocent victims across the country. Offshore racing accidents in Key West claimed the lives of three individuals, many of whom we all knew personally…and it opened the eyes of organizers, to tighten up on their race management and emergency response measures.
Closer to home, in April 2012, a remote accident in Louisana claimed the lives of a father and son that brought tragic news and shockwaves throughout the FPC family. While Leon and David Ortemond were merely testing their 36 foot powerboat in preparation for a poker run just a week later…it soon became evident, this accident may have easily occurred during a poker run event, in a group boating setting. Later in the year, during the Emerald Coast Poker Run, a non-particpating crew in the Destin area lost control of their powerboat, tossing four occupants into the water at substantial speed. One of the occupants submerged, out of sight from rescuers…and his body was later recovered. It is apparent that none of the occupants were wearing PFD’s. This was a tragic result, for what was otherwise a beautiful day of boating in Florida.
These tragic incidents continue to occur across the nation, and it is my personal belief that poker run safety is being compomised. Poker run events are starting to become “less safe” for two apparent reasons: (1) Participants who choose to NOT follow the safety management guidelines and (2) Higher rates of Speed..like we have never seen before.
FPC STRATEGIC SAFETY MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE – FEB 2013
This is not just a new set of safety guidelines. This is a Completely New way to manage poker run events. The concept is based on the following additions to the existing format:
1) THREE Speed Groups
-Sportboat/Sportcruising: 45-59 mph
-Perfomance Class: 60-99 mph:
-Hi Performance 100 -150mph.
-There will be no CLASS for participants that wish to operate above 150 mph on ANY Florida Powerboat Club event. If boaters choose to run these speeds they need to register with a racing association and go racing. There is no room for these speeds in a recreational boating situation…during USCG non-permited poker run events that share public waterways.
The key to (separation) of the classes, (A) color-coded decals (b) staggered starting, and (3) larger time intervals between group departures on the larger events. For the Sportboat and Hi-Performance classes….Participants will be required to follow and stay behind an official paceboat. For the Hi-Performance class, there will be no paceboat, and captains will be required to display satisfactory knowledge of the local waters, to ensure safe navigation and to not impede critical areas where other recreational boating activities are prevalent.
2) ON-WATER Patrols & Law Enforcement:
In the state of Florida, the designated agency for patolling recreational boats on public waters is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (FWC) In recent years, Florida Powerboat Club was faced with the harsh reality of State cutbacks and limited presence of these public safety officers during FPC events. In 2012, the program of Paid-duty was offered, and FPC began to contract with off-duty officers, who were given access to the FWC boats for these paid assignments…i.e. Poker run safety patrols. This program will continue through 2013…and FPC is naturally forced to budget for this provision. The pricing is reasonable, and it is our feeling that there is no substitute for a certified public safety official ..and the wealth of knowledge these officers have with respect to emergency response.
3) Aerial and On-Water Emergency Response: Helcopter & Support Boat
The objective is to have certified rescue divers in the air, over a poker run course…during the most active sections of the poker run activity where higher speeds are prevalent. The intent is to create a rescue team that might be similar to one used in offshore racing or the film industry. The biggest challenge is logistics, therefore a strategic plan will be implemented to permit best coverage. Additionally, FPC is exploring communications options that will notify responders with critical information via vhf/phone/texting protocols, about key information including channel marker information, lat/long coordinates and vital details about an incident. A medical boat (or boats) will be included in this support program, with diver/paramedic personnel on board.
4) PFD’S -New regulations will apply:
All participants will be required to wear PFD’s on any powerboat registered for an event. (performance yachts or any boat designated at under 40mph will be exempt) All HI-PERF class participants engaged in speeds above 100mph will be required to where a Lifeline-style poker run or offshore race jacket…or similar product, with rigid construction and crotch/thigh safety straps to ensure jacket remains on torso during a violent, high speed water entry.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT for the 2013 Strategic Safety Management Initiative:
It is estimated that costs to initiate this safety program may only be covered through financial sources other than the standard poker run event fees. FUNDING for this program will therefore be sourced through corporate sponsorship, member contributions, fund-raising activities. A separate foundation is being considered after the first year of implementation.
Corporate Sponsors: A proportionate amount of funds derived from 2013 FPC sponsor programs will partially support this funding effort. Furthermore, sponsors may elect to designate (larger portions) of the funding they direct to FPC, towards this safety effort.
Member/Participants: Poker Run registration will now include a “line item” entry on their poker run entry forms. The costs for program introduction are:
Sportboat/Sport Cruising (under 60mph) $ No fee/ donations voluntary
Performance Class: 60-99 mph …………$ 150 per event.
Hi Performance Class: 100-150 mph….. $ 250 per event
5) INSURANCE REGULATIONS:
As always, as an entry requirement, boaters are obligated to have adequate liability coverages on their craft, and provide documented proof thereof. Typically, participants provide a declaration page, although many of these documents present limited information. FPC will be requesting that any boat travelling in excess of 100 mph be able to provide insurance that documents these speeds are approved and certified by the carrier.
PRIVATE MEMBER MEETING – Miami International Boat Show- Feb 15, 2013
Location: Miami Convention Center: ( room number and time TBA-expected to be mid-day)
In Attendance: Law Enforcement Agencies/ Emergency response experts
All ACTIVE members of FPC are invited to attend a membership meeting, which will address this new safety initiative. Due to space limitations and the critical nature of this topic, no guests will be permitted to attend. There is no exception to this rule.
FOR MORE INFOMATION CONTACT: STU JONES
(954)545-1414 email: email@example.com