With an upcoming warm weather weekend, many water enthusiasts may spend their weekend recreating on rivers and lakes. The Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) would like to remind enthusiasts to always practice safety while on the water. Below is a safety message and tips that the DBW would like to relay to these water enthusiasts.
Know the Water
· Sudden immersion in cold water can stimulate the “gasp reflex” causing an involuntary inhalation of air or water. It can even trigger cardiac arrest, temporary paralysis, hypothermia and drowning. When faced with swift water, even the strongest swimmers may be easily overwhelmed.
· Cold water entering the ear canal can cause vertigo and disorientation. This may confuse swimmers, causing them to venture deeper into the water.
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Know your limits
· Swimming in open water is more difficult than in a swimming pool – people tire more quickly and can get into trouble.
· Cold water causes impairment leading to fatalities. It reduces body heat 25-30 times faster than air does at the same temperature.
· Many unseen obstacles can be lurking below the water’s surface. Swift water can make these obstacles even more treacherous.
· Wear a life jacket (Visit www.BoatSmarter.com for more information on the proper use of life jackets and/ or loaner programs.)
· Conditions change quickly in open water and even the best swimmers can misjudge the water and their skills when boating or swimming. Wearing a life jacket can increase survival time.
· A life jacket can provide some thermal protection against the onset of hypothermia and keep you afloat until someone else can rescue you.
· Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention. Appoint a designated “water watcher,” taking turns with other adults.
· Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
Know the Law
· A 2010 boating law states that children under age 13 must wear a life jacket when on a moving vessel that is 26 feet or less in length.
· Every person on board a personal watercraft (popularly known as “jet skis”) and any person being towed behind a vessel must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
· It is against the law to operate a boat or water ski with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. You can be arrested even when your BAC is less than 0.08 percent if conditions are deemed to be unsafe.
Rivers are high with the run-off from melting snow. Not only are they high, but the water is cold. Use caution around rivers. Wear a life jacket if you are going to be wading in the river. You can easily slip on slick rocks and fall and end up in the river. Often there are deep holes that your foot can become caught in while wading that can pull you under.
The water may look calm on the top, but the current is usually very strong beneath the water’s surface.
If you do end up in the river…point your feet downstream. This helps your legs to come in contact with floating debris or rocks first instead of your head. Stay calm and try to make your way to the shore while floating. Be wary of branches in the river. It may be tempting to reach for a branch, but you can become entangled in the branches and drown. Look for a clear place to get to shore.