VICTORIA -- Members of the Canadian Coast Guard have been receiving special training on how to respond to emergency situations while also protecting themselves and others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All crews on Canadian Coast Guard ships and at rescue stations have taken infectious disease training that includes wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and have adopted strategies to minimize contact with the people that they may be called to rescue.

If you are involved in a marine emergency off the B.C. coast this summer, you need to be prepared to put on a mask and answer some questions before a member of the coast guard boards your boat.

"We have to upgrade the level of risk mitigation we are taking on," said Canadian Coast Guard deputy superintendent of search and rescue western region Trent Tabor.

"We have the necessary PPE to respond to any type of call; it just means response time might be a bit longer as we make sure our people are protected before they step on that vessel."

Members of the coast guard will ask people three simple questions before boarding. They will ask if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, if you have been in a high-risk area for COVID-19 and if you have any of the symptoms of the virus.

If a boater in distress answers yes to any of those questions, the coast guard crew will take extra precautions before boarding the boat.

"We'll don full Tyvek [protective] suits, masks and googles," said Tabor. "Our infectious disease protocols warrant full body coverage."

If the crews are responding to a call where the person in distress is injured and becomes unconscious or unable to speak, the coast guard members will proceed with caution.

In the waters off Vancouver Island, volunteers of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) respond to roughly 25 to 30 per cent of all distress calls in B.C. and are a key partner of the Canadian Coast Guard.

As RCMSAR continues to support marine search and rescue in BC's coastal waters, its members will also ensure that everyone is safe when responding to marine incidents.

"We understand that people are going to want to hit the water so we will be there to respond to any marine emergency," said Tabor. "We ask the boating public understand that we are responding to emergencies during a pandemic and we have to take the necessary precautions."

The coast guard reminds all pleasure and commercial boaters to have a lifejacket for everybody onboard, a VHF radio and to file a "sail plan" with someone at home.