PORTLAND, Maine — First responders across Maine are working together to ensure they're prepared to respond to an incident on the water ahead of a busy boating season.
"Maine has a huge shoreline, of course, and a lot of water activity takes place along our shoreline," Marine Patrol Sgt. Matthew Sinclair said.
Sinclair was among two dozen speakers taking part in conferences hosted by the U.S. Coast Coast Sector Northern New England on Monday. The conference centered around recreational boating safety as well as water search and rescue.
"The more we can cooperate increases the amount of eyes and ears on the water to keep people safe," Sinclair said.
The training hosted by USCG is being made available to a host of local agencies that respond to water incidents, including Maine Marine Patrol, New Hampshire State Police Marine Patrol, local police and fire departments, emergency management agencies, harbormasters, commercial salvage and towing providers, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
"Really it's all about unity of effort and coordination," LCDR Ryan Koroknay with USCG Sector Northern New England said. "Making sure that we're all on the same sheet of music for the upcoming season, that we all understand where everyone resources are, assets, equipment, and how everybody's staffed."
With Maine's thousands of lakes, rivers, streams and ponds, as well as its coastline, those at the conference said it is critically important to maintain strong communication with crews across the state to ensure quick response.
Koroknay said that is especially important with cold water temperatures in Maine.
"With Maine waters here, it's cold year-round. Minutes count if you fall into that water, so that's why the unity of effort and the coordination is so paramount," Koroknay said.
In addition to discussing response to incidents, attendees and presenters also discussed important messages about boating safety to share to the public.
Koroknay said it's important to boat owners to have a free vessel safety check completed. A free inspection by the USCG is available upon request.
In addition to vessel safety checks, Koroknay and others at the conference stressed the importance of an "if found" sticker on all kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards to help simplify search and rescues if one of those vessels is located unoccupied in the water.
"Having that 'if found' sticker allows us to contact that owner nearly instantaneously, and we can decipher if the vessel in fact distressed or did it wash off when the tide came up," Koroknay said. "We would treat that as a distress situation until we can prove otherwise."
The USCG Sector Norther New England is scheduled to host additional conferences with first responders up and down the Maine and New Hampshire coast this week, including conferences in Boothbay Harbor, Rockland and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Conferences are scheduled to be held in Eastport, Jonesport, and Southwest Harbor by the USCG in May, as well.