Here is some basic boating safety equipment everyone needs. Nobody wants to have a boating accident, but being prepared for one can make the difference between life and death. Make sure that your boat is stocked with these things, at a minimum.
You should have boat insurance to cover you and your boat in the event of an accident. Check with your local insurance provider to see what type of boat insurance will suit your needs best. Keep a copy of your boat insurance onboard so that you'll have the information in case you're in a boating accident. That's not it for paperwork though. The Coast Guard requires all boats to be registered by the state. Make sure that your registration is onboard at all times. You should also have maps of the area you'll be in.
Perhaps the most important piece of safety equipment you can have is a personal flotation device (pfd), or life jacket. Every person on board has to have one, and it's advisable that you actually wear it rather than wait for an emergency to put it on. Make sure that your pfd is Coat Guard approved.
You should have a visible distress signal, such as an electric distress light or flares. Similarly, make sure you have a whistle or air horn so that you can alert passing boats that you need help. All boats should have navigation lights which should be on during the from evening to dawn.
Make sure your boat is equipped with an easily-accessible first-aid kit. Check your first-aid kit regularly to make sure you don't need to stock up on anything. A flashlight and extra batteries are a necessity, as is a fire extinguisher.
It's also a good idea to have a backup supply of water and food in case you end up having to spend more time at sea than planned. In addition, make sure that somebody knows where you're going and what time you're expected back. That way, they can notify the Coast Guard sooner rather than later in the event that you're stranded at sea.