The State Water Patrol says staying safe on the water is just as important in the winter as it is the rest of the year, but you do have to prepare in different ways.

Missouri’s waters aren’t anywhere near as crowded in the winter, but Sgt. Jerry Callahan with the Water Patrol says they’re not empty.

“Missouri has quite a few cold water boating enthusiasts. Most of them are centered around the sports of fishing and hunting,” Callahan said.

But he says people need to go out on the water prepared for the worst. Callahan recommends you make sure you let someone back home know your plans for the day, because you have to create your own safety net.

“It isn’t as common to see a Water Patrolman, just as it’s not common to see any other boats. We do keep officers on call and keep response crews ready in the case of emergency. But the best thing is to be prepared to go out there to be able to deal with the emergency on scene or make yourself better able to survive any type of extended wait for rescue,” Callahan said.

He says you should also check the weather before carrying out your plans.

“There are times when it’s best not to go out. Safety starts at the dock, at land. For example, weather conditions sometimes would dictate that it’s not the best time to be out there boating. One of the things you need to take into consideration are winds in Missouri. We can get days when it’s very windy and a lot of the boats we use this time of year aren’t meant to be out there when it’s really windy,” Callahan said. “The waters in Missouri are in the 50 degree range. Hypothermia has to be first in a boaters mind. Make sure you prepare for that, bring extra clothing and know what to do in that event. An unexpected spill in the water can have drastic consequences if you don’t come prepared and don’t have the planning.”

Follow this link for information on treating hypothermia.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]