With boating season rapidly approaching, the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department is once again sharing information about carbon monoxide (CO), the “station wagon” effect and the possible dangers it can present to boaters at Grand Lake.

“It is certainly something boaters need to be aware of,” said GRDA Chief of Law Enforcement/Lake Operations Brian Edwards. “The station wagon effect is essentially when fumes from a boat’s exhaust travel back into the boat or accumulate in an area near the boat where swimmers may be in the water.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CO can build up near the rear swim deck or water platform of larger boats equipped with generators that vent towards the rear. CO that builds up in the air space below the stern deck or around the swim deck can prove deadly, within a few seconds of exposure. Boats traveling at slow speeds, or idling in the water, can cause CO to build up in the cabin, cockpit, bridge, aft deck or even open areas of the boat. Wind blowing in from the back of the boat can also increase the chances of a CO buildup. Boats operating at a high bow angle, or boats that are improperly or heavily loaded, or boats with an opening that draws in exhaust, can also lead to CO buildup.

“However, the good news is that virtually all CO poisonings are preventable,” said Edwards, “but it’s important to know the facts so that you can protect yourself and your passengers. Then you can go enjoy your time on the water.”

To help educate boaters, GRDA is sharing the following information:

  • Install approved, battery operated CO detectors in each accommodation area of your boat. Test them before each trip out.
  • Properly install and maintain all fuel-burning engines and appliances on your boat.
  • Have your boat’s engine and exhaust systems maintained and inspected on a regular basis by experienced and trained mechanics.
  • Even in inclement weather, keep forward facing hatches open to allow fresh air to circulate in accommodation spaces. When possible, operate the boat so that prevailing winds will help dissipate exhaust.
  • Never swim and play in areas where engines vent their exhaust
  • Watch children closely when they play on rear swim decks or water platforms
  • Never block exhaust outlets. Blocking outlets can cause CO to build up in the cabin and cockpit areas, even when hatches, windows, portholes and doors are closed.
  • Dock, beach or anchor your boat at least 20 feet from the nearest boat that is a running a generator or engine. Exhaust from a nearby vessel can send CO into the cabin or cockpit of a boat.

It is also important to educate all your boat passengers about the following signs and symptoms of CO poisoning:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness
  • Nausea

Remember, CO cannot be seen or smelled. If anyone has these symptoms, move them to fresh air immediately and investigate the cause and take corrective action. Seek medical attention if necessary.

“Taking these precautions and educating yourself on the facts of carbon monoxide and boating can go a long way in helping to keep boaters safe,” said Edwards. He added that the public can also find even more information about CO and boating on the United States Coast Guard’s boating information site at http://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/carbon-monoxide.php.

Also, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website http://www.cdc.gov/co/boating.htm for more information.

For more information on the GRDA Police Department or information on how an officer can assist you, contact the department at (918) 256 0911, or visit online at grda.com.

Grand Lake Raft-Outs