Safety Information Tips


ATV Riding:

ATVing has become an increasingly popular sport enjoyed by tens of thousands of Maine people and non-residents. Plan your trip. Be sure that you have permission to operate where you are going. Most of Maine?s 33,000 square miles consists of private land. Do not operate on private land without permission, always wear your helmet and do not consume alcohol before or during your ride. Be sure your ATV is registered in Maine before heading out.

ATV riding can be a risky sport. Before you ride, learn how to properly use all the mechanical controls and safety devices of your vehicle. Read your owner's manual. Most importantly, take a safety course before riding.

A few safety tips to remember:

  • Wear a helmet and eye protection at all times and other protective clothing suitable to the environment.
  • Do not carry passengers on your ATV.
  • Do not let young or inexperienced riders operate ATVs without training and supervision.
  • Do not use alcohol or other drugs when you ride.
  • Learn proper riding skills from an instructor or qualified rider and practice such skills before riding.
  • Always maintain a safe distance between riders. Tailgating can lead to collisions and injuries.
  • Ride with others and let someone know where you are riding. Never ride alone.
  • Obey the laws.
  • Stay on trails designated for ATVs.
  • Be informed of local weather conditions and dress and equip yourself appropriately.
  • Know the area you are riding in. Be aware of its potential hazards.
  • Always ride at a safe and responsible speed. Know your abilities and don't exceed those levels.
  • Make sure your equipment is in top working order; check before heading out.
  • Carry a map of the trail or area you intend to travel.
  • Use common sense.

How ever you chose to enjoy Maine's outdoors this Summer, the Maine Warden Service hopes it will be a safe and memorable experience.

In fall, outdoors people use ATV's for hunting as well. ATVing has become an increasingly popular sport enjoyed by tens of thousands of Maine people and non-residents. Plan your trip. Be sure that you have permission to operate where you are going. Most of Maine's 33,000 square miles consists of private land. Do not operate on private land without permission, always wear your helmet and do not consume alcohol before or during your ride. Be sure your ATV is registered in Maine before heading out and never carry a loaded firearm on your ATV.

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Boating is a very popular summer recreation and includes all power, hand, and wind propelled watercraft. Before leaving home, insure you have all the necessary safety equipment to include lifejackets. Remember that when heading out either by yourself or with a group, always tell someone where you are going. Keep a close eye to the weather forecast to prepare for any unexpected changes such as thunderstorms, wind, and fog. Also, be familiar with the water body you plan to visit. Learn the depth and any hazards that may be of particular concern. Local lake associations, Maine Guides, and marinas can be very helpful with this information. If you happen to be checked by a Game Warden, they can provide you with helpful information as well.

Every year, boaters are killed in boat crashes on Maine waters. Take a few minutes now to learn how you can boat safely.Leave alcohol on shore and never use drugs or alcohol before or during boat operation. Alcohol's effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise, and vibration. Use and maintain the right safety equipment.

Life Jackets and Personal Flotation Devices - State law requires each person on board to have a properly-fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved serviceable life jacket. Also, boats longer than 16 feet must have a throwable PFD. The Maine Warden Service recommends that everyone wear his or her lifejackets while on the water.

  • If your boat has any enclosed compartments or a false floor you must carry a Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher. Make sure it is charged and accessible.
  • Always test your boat lights before the boat leaves the dock and carry extra batteries.
  • Keep emergency supplies on board in a floating pouch complete with maps, flares, and a first aid kit.
  • And make sure you have an anchor and can properly use it.

Be Weather Wise:

  • Regardless of the season, keep a close eye on the weather and bring a radio. Sudden wind shifts, lightning and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing.
  • If bad weather is approaching, get off the water early to avoid a long waiting line in inclement weather.
  • Cold water temperatures, particularly in spring and fall, increase the risk of hypothermia.

Be sure to take these steps before getting underway.

  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Open all hatches and run the blower after you refuel and before getting underway. Sniff for fumes before starting the engine and if you smell fumes, do not start the engine.
  • Make certain your registration is up to date and on board with you and that your boat displays the current year sticker.
  • Do not overload your boat. Abide by the listed weight capacity and make sure all equipment is working and that the plug is in.

Follow Navigation and Other Rules on the Water wear your lifejacket and have everybody on board wear his or hers. In 2008, Game Wardens encountered 1,411 violations related to lifejackets. Be sure that you do not become part of our statistics. Never allow passengers to ride on gunwales or seatbacks or outside of protective railings, including the front of a pontoon boat. A sudden turn, stop or start could cause a fall overboard. After leaving the boat launch, maintain slow-no-wake speed for a safe and legal distance from the launch. And follow all boat traffic rules. Use the mandated navigation lights from sunset to sunrise and slow down.

Spring comes to us at very different times in Maine depending on your location. Northern Maine holds on to winter as long as it can and it often feels like winter well into spring. Spring comes to Southern Maine much sooner in most years, often a month earlier than the north and mountain regions of Maine. Outdoor enthusiasts eagerly await spring and become involved in a wide variety of activities. Spring Fishing is another popular way many people choose to enjoy this time of year. As with any other outdoor activity, tell someone where you plan to fish. Even if you plan to fish from shore, bring along a lifejacket. Rivers, brooks, and streams can be very dangerous to navigate on foot. Wearing a lifejacket while standing in any of body of water increases your safety and may save your life should you fall and be swept downstream.

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Clothing for the Seasons:

Step 1 - The first layer should be a comfortably light fabric that will wick sweat away from your body. Avoid pure cotton, linen, or other similar materials, however, because these fabrics retain moisture and will chill you. When planning how to dress for cold weather, staying dry should be a top priority. Traditional thermal undergarments work well for the first layer. An alternative to traditional thermals is silk. Silk is very warm and feels wonderful against bare skin. Silk is not very rugged, though, and won't last as long as traditional thermal underwear.

Step 2 - The second layer should fit comfortably over the first layer. Wool is ideal for the second layer of a cold weather outfit. Wool is very warm, retains warmth even when damp, and is available in lighter weights suitablefor your second layer. Wool pants and a thin wool sweater are perfect for protection against cold winter weather. If you are allergic to wool, or simply don't like wool, there are many insulating synthetic fabrics to choose from as alternatives. Try synthetic fleece or other insulating materials.

Step 3 - The third layer of winter clothing can be bulkier. A medium weight fleece button down shirt or jacket and another pair of wool pants will do. If you are concerned your legs will get too warm, and you don't mind casual dress, you can opt for pair of wind-proof nylon (or other material) pants instead of wool. No matter which fabric you choose, the third layer of clothing needs to be easy to remove in case you become overheated.

Step 4 - In extremely cold weather, the outer layer may actually be comprised of two layers;a heavier coat on top of a lighter coat, for instance. Coats with a hood are best because they add an extra layer of protection from the cold for your head and neck. Longer coats, such as parkas that cover the thighs, are better than waist-length coats. The outer layer also needs to include a head covering. The body loses a lot of heat from the head. It is important when dressing for cold weather that you wear a warm hat even if your coat is hooded. Hats that can be pulled down far enough to protect your ears are ideal.

Step 5 - Your ears, cheeks, nose, chin, fingers and toes are very susceptible to frost bite. Protect your face by wearing a warm scarf in addition to your hat and hooded coat. Protect hands with mittens or gloves. Mittens are warmer than gloves because the body heat generated in the hand is confined to the enclosed area. Unfortunately, mittens are not very practical. I recommend purchasing a good pair of insulated gloves and a pair of mittens (or gloves) large enough to fit over the insulated gloves.

Step 6 - Finally, warm socks and shoes are a vital part of a cold-weather wardrobe. Toes and fingers are exceptionally vulnerable to frostbite. When the body is cold, more blood is directed away from the extremities and towards the vital organs in order to keep the essential organs warm. This leaves feet, and especially toes, more susceptible to cold weather injury. The first sock layer should be lightweight and moisture wicking. Two pairs of socks are best. The outer sock can be heavier. Avoid cotton socks or socks of any other material that holds on to moisture. Winter shoes should never fit too tightly. When choosing winter shoes, be sure to pick a size thatwill allow room for air to circulate. This will help keep your feet drier and warmer. Shoes should be waterproof, have excellent traction, and have a warm, soft, lining.

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Hiking in Maine is as varied as it is beautiful. From our Mountains to our coast, Maine offers unsurpassed hiking opportunities. Be sure to bring all the necessary items to get you through a night or two in the woods, even if you have not planned on it. As always, tell someone where you are going and dress appropriately, summer nights in Maine can prove very cold at times, especially if it starts to rain. Game Wardens responded to 71 search and rescue calls for lost, injured, or overdue hikers in Maine in 2008.

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The Warden Service has a long history in Maine for promoting safety regarding outdoor recreational activities. Game Wardens work hard to insure everyone's outdoor experiences in Maine can take place in a safe environment. Special precautions need to be adhered to when preparing for an out-of-doors adventure in Maine. Each of our seasons has special challenges concerning safe outdoor recreation.

If you're heading out in the woods for turkey hunting, take care to be safe. Follow these simple rules:

  • Use gobble calls only to locate a tom, not to attract one. Some other hunter might think you're a turkey.
  • Keep hands and head camouflaged when calling.
  • Never stalk a turkey and don't try to approach closer than 100 yards to a gobbler.
  • Select a calling site from which you can see at least 40 yards in all directions.
  • Never carry or move an uncovered decoy.

You must be extra careful when turkey hunting because you are dressed in camouflage. It is a good idea to wear a blaze orange cap or gloves while walking. You can take them off when you are ready to hunt. Most turkey hunting shooting incidents occur because one hunter mistakes another hunter as game.

You should find a hunting spot that allows you to rest your back against a tree or some other object that is as wide as your shoulders. This helps protect you from not only an errant shot, but from the good vision of the turkey.

Safety is the most important part of any hunt.

As you join thousands of hunters heading into the woods, fields and marshes during the spring or fall hunting seasons, Maine Game Wardens remind you to review and think about firearm safety each and every time you head out.

Essential to any responsible hunting trip is an ironclad adherence to the four basic rules of firearm safety that can be easily remembered using the TAB-K formula.

T = Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
A = Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
B = Be certain of your target and what's beyond it.
K = Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

Planning your hunting trip also means having your gear in proper working order. Firearms should be cleaned and closely inspected for any signs of mechanical wear that could result in a problem in the field.

Firearms are not the only items that need to be checked well in advance of a hunting trip. Clothing and other equipment should also be inspected for signs of wear and tear. Anything that might cause you to compromise safety should be repaired, discarded, or replaced. Blaze orange clothing that has faded over time, a jacket that does not fit correctly, or a scope that is not adjusted can compromise your safety and the safety of others.

Have a safe and enjoyable hunt!

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Ice Safety:

General Ice Thickness Guidelines - For New, Clear Ice Only:

2" or less - STAY OFF
4" May allow Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5" often allows for Snowmobile or ATV travel
8" - 12" of good ice with supports most Cars or small pickups
12" - 15" will likely hold a Medium sized truck.

Remember that these thicknesses are merely guidelines for new, clear, solid ice. Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe.

What if someone else falls in?

If someone else falls through and you are the only one around to help? First, call 911 for help. There is a good chance someone near you may be carrying a cell phone.

  • Resist the urge to run up to the edge of the hole. This would most likely result in two victims in the water. Also, do not risk your life to attempt to save a pet or other animal.
  • Preach, Reach, Throw, Row, Go
  • PREACH - Shout to the victim to encourage them to fight to survive and reassure them that help is on the way.
  • REACH - If you can safely reach the victim from shore, extend an object such as a rope, ladder, or jumper cables to the victim. If the person starts to pull you in, release your grip on the object and start over.
  • THROW - Toss one end of a rope or something that will float to the victim. Have them tie the rope around themselves before they are too weakened by the cold to grasp it.
  • ROW - Find a light boat to push across the ice ahead of you. Push it to the edge of the hole, get into the boat and pull the victim in over the bow. It's not a bad idea to attach some rope to the boat, so others can help pull you and the victim to safety.
  • GO - A non-professional should not go out on the ice to perform a rescue unless all other basic rescue techniques have been ruled out.

If the situation is too dangerous for you to perform the rescue, call 911 for help, keep reassuring the victim that help is on the way, and urge them to fight to survive. Heroics by well-meaning but untrained rescuers sometimes result in two deaths.

New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially thawed ice may not.

Ice seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.

Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous. This is especially true near streams, bridges, and culverts. In addition, the ice on outside river bends is usually weaker due to the undermining effects of the faster current.

The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. The extra weight also reduces how much weight the ice sheet can support. Also, ice near shore can be weaker than ice that is farther out.

Booming and cracking ice isn't necessarily dangerous. It only means that the ice is expanding and contracting as the temperature changes.

Schools of fish or flocks of waterfowl can also adversely affect the relative safety of ice. The movement of fish can bring warm water up from the bottom of the lake. In the past, this has opened holes in the ice causing snowmobiles and cars to break through.

If your car or truck plunges through the ice, the best time to escape is before it sinks, not after. It will stay afloat a few seconds to several minutes depending on the airtightness of the vehicle.

  • While the car is still afloat, the best escape hatches are the side windows since the doors may be held shut by the water pressure. If the windows are blocked, try to push the windshield or rear window out with your feet or shoulder.
  • A vehicle with its engine in the front will sink at a steep angle and may land on its roof if the water is 15 feet or deeper. As the car starts its final plunge to the bottom, water rapidly displaces the remaining air. An air bubble can stay in a submerged vehicle, but it is unlikely that it would remain by the time the car hits the bottom.
  • When the car is completely filled, the doors may be a little easier to open unless they are blocked by mud and silt. Remember too, chances are that the car will be upside down at this point! Add darkness and near freezing water, and your chances of escape have greatly diminished. This underscores the necessity of getting out of the car before it starts to sink!

The following guidelines can help you make wise choices:

  • Check for known thin ice areas with a local resort or bait shop.
  • Test the thickness yourself using an ice chisel or ice auger.
  • Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible.
  • If you must drive a vehicle, be prepared to leave it in a hurry--keep windows down, unbuckle your seat belt and have a simple emergency plan of action you have discussed with your passengers.
  • Stay away from alcoholic beverages.
  • Even "just a couple of beers" are enough to cause a careless error in judgment that could cost you your life. And contrary to common belief, alcohol actually makes you colder rather than warming you up.
  • Don't "overdrive" your snowmobile's headlight.
  • At even 30 miles per hour, it can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than your headlight shines. Many fatal snowmobile through-the-ice accidents occur because the machine was traveling too fast for the operator to stop when the headlamp illuminated the hole in the ice.
  • Wear a life vest under your winter gear.
  • Or wear one of the new flotation snowmobile suits. And it's a good idea to carry a pair of ice picks that may be home made or purchased from most well stocked sporting goods stores that cater to winter anglers. It's amazing how difficult it can be to pull yourself back onto the surface of unbroken but wet and slippery ice while wearing a snowmobile suit weighted down with 60 lbs of water. The ice picks really help pulling yourself back onto solid ice. CAUTION: Do NOT wear a flotation device when traveling across the ice in an enclosed vehicle!

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Never consume alcohol or drugs before or during snowmobile operation. Drinking alcohol before or during a snowmobile ride can impair judgment and slow reaction time. Snowmobile operators who have been drinking often drive toofast. Alcohol also causes body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, which increases the likelihood of hypothermia. Alcohol has been shown to be a contributing factor in many of Maine's fatal snowmobile accidents.

Slow down. Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that will allow ample reaction time for any situation. Drive at moderate speeds, and drive defensively, especially after sunset.

Carry a first-aid kit, flashlight, knife, compass, map, and waterproof matches.

Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness or water currents. Rapidly changing weather and moving water in streams and lake inlets also affect the thickness and strength of ice on lakes and ponds. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevents thick strong ice from forming.

Dress appropriately. Always wear a helmet with goggles or a face shield to prevent injuries from twigs and flying debris. Wear layers of water-repellent clothing and make sure you have no loose ends that might catch in the machine or tangle in equipment.

Stay on marked trails or, where allowed, on the right shoulder of the road. Be alert for fences, tree stumps and stretched wire that may be concealed by snow.

Never travel alone. Most snowmobile accidents result in personal injury. The most dangerous situations occur when a person is injured and alone. If you must travel alone, tell someone your destination, planned route, and when you will return.

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