The first priority is knowing how to launch the raft. Next comes righting it from the boat deck or from the water if it inflates upside down. Also learn how to board the raft from the boat or when swimming — the strongest passenger boards first to help others. Know as well where the knife is stored to cut the painter attached to a sinking boat and when not to do so. Find the heaving line inside the raft used to reach others still swimming or for yourself if rescuing those who aren't swimming, and know how to douse the sea anchor and paddle to leave a burning boat or reach others.
Once everyone is safe on board the raft, your priority will turn to canopies and inflatable floors to stay dry and retain body heat, but experts advise to immediately task someone to the EPIRB and distress signals while another scans for possible rescue. Not being prepared to signal when an opportunity arises elicits another unverifiable statistic — how often that was the only opportunity.
Finally, turn your attention to the survival guide and equipment typically lashed to the raft floor. All should take seasickness medication right away. If it might be a while before rescue, you'll also want to turn off automatic lights during the daytime.
* * * * *
The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.