Before heading out on the water this fall, make sure your boat is equipped with an essential safety device – the engine cut-off switch (ECOS). While ECOS devices have been required for years, usage is now federally mandated for certain motorboats and PWCs.
What is an ECOS Device and How Does it Work?
An ECOS is a small device found near the helm that connects to a switch that immediately shuts off the engine if the operator moves away. It consists of:
- A spring-loaded button that triggers shut off when released
- A removable clip that stays inserted under the button during normal operation
- A lanyard attaching the clip to the operator
If the operator falls overboard or moves away from the helm, the lanyard pulls the clip out, hitting the switch and stopping the engine. This prevents a runaway boat that could cause injury.
ECOS devices have been required since 2018 and most outboards, PWCs, and sterndrives have long included them. Digital wireless ECOS systems are also available as a convenient alternative.
When Are You Legally Required to Use an ECOS?
According to the US Coast Guard’s new regulation, ECOS use is mandatory when:
- The boat is less than 26 feet long
- The helm is not fully enclosed
- Propulsion exceeds 115 pounds (3 HP)
- Operating on plane
Always check your state laws too for specific ECOS requirements. Safety should come first regardless of technical requirements.
ECOS Devices Protect More Than the Captain
ECOS devices primarily safeguard the operator at the helm. However, they also provide:
- Protection for passengers from an unmanned circling boat.
- Prevention of collisions with other boats, docks, or swimmers.
- Avoidance of costly boat and property damage.
Don’t underestimate the importance of an engine shut off switch for overall safety.
More Boat Safety Tips
- Take a boating safety course
- Check required safety gear like life jackets
- Learn emergency cut-off and stopping procedures
- Ensure proper maintenance to avoid breakdowns
- Monitor weather reports closely
Key Takeaways on ECOS Devices
Installing and using an ECOS device is mandatory for certain motorboats and prevents accidents when operators are thrown from the helm. Follow USCG regulations and help ensure a safer season on the water.
Frequently Asked ECOS Questions – FAQs
ECOS stands for Engine Cut-Off Switch. It is the technical term for the required emergency shut-off device.
Only if your boat does not meet the criteria requiring mandatory use. Check the regulations.
Most pontoon boats are not required since they are slow and considered low risk. But they are still recommended.
Simply replace the removable clip under the ECOS button at the helm to reset and restore operation.
Most marine retailers carry them. Or purchase online from sites like Amazon.com