Warm Weather and Water: Keeping it Safe
Each year, as the days become long and warm, we of the ever-gray Seattle area rush outside to soak up the sun and enjoy our beautiful Washington home. Seattle beaches get crowded, boats hit the lakes and Puget Sound and our rivers are full of kayakers, canoers and swimmers enjoying some summer fun in the chill of the water.
As much as we anticipate the great weather and fun to be had in the sun and water, we also brace ourselves each year for the seemingly-inevitable tales of drowning tragedies that befall some of our fellow Washingtonians. With Seafair festivities in full swing and hydroplane races and the Blue Angels just around the corner, we at Dixon Law Firm would like to remind everyone to keep the following water-safety tips in mind:
Before getting underway, know your boat and know the rules of the road. Keep in mind the following:
- Check your boat for all required safety equipment.
- Consider the size of your boat, the number of passengers and the amount of extra equipment that will be on-board. DON’T OVERLOAD THE BOAT!
- If you will be in a power boat, check your electrical system and fuel system for gas fumes.
- Follow manufacturers’ suggested procedures BEFORE starting up the engine.
- Wear your life jacket – don’t just carry one on board.
- Leave your alcohol behind. Work to increase your safety, not increase your risks!
- Check the weather forecast.
Since most drowning victims had no intention of being in water and since most people drown within 10-30 feet of safety, it is important that you and your family learn to swim.
- Don’t take chances by over-estimating your swimming skills.
- Swim only in designated swimming areas.
- Never swim alone.
- Never rely on toys such as inner tubes and water wings to stay afloat.
Parents: Watch Small Children!
Each year about 200 children drown and several thousand others are treated in hospitals for submersion accidents, accidents which leave children with permanent brain damage and respiratory health problems.
Remember, it only takes a few seconds for a small child to wander away. Children have a natural curiosity and attraction to water.
Alcohol- The Fun Killer
It’s a fact, alcohol and water do not mix! More than half of all the people that drown had consumed alcohol prior to their accident.
Being intoxicated is not necessary for alcohol to be a threat to your safety. Just one beer will impair your balance, vision, judgment and reaction time, thus making you a potential danger to yourself and others.
Research shows that four hours of boating, exposure to noise, vibration, sun, glare and wind produces fatigue that makes you act as if you were legally intoxicated. If you combine alcohol consumption with this boating fatigue condition, it intensifies the effects and increases your accident risk.
So remember, don’t include alcohol in your outing, if you planning to have fun in, on, or near the water.
Cold Water Survival
Your life may depend on a better understanding of cold water. Many suspected drowning victims actually die from cold exposure or hypothermia.
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Violent shivering develops which may give way to confusion and a loss of body movement.
If you fall in the water, in any season, hypothermia may occur. It’s important to remember:
- Don’t discard clothing. Clothing layers provide some warmth that may actually assist you in fighting hypothermia. This includes shoes and hats.
- Wear your life jacket! This helps hold heat into the core areas of your body, and enables you to easily put yourself into the HELP position by drawing limbs into your body; keep armpits and groin areas protected from unnecessary exposure – a lot of heat can be lost from those areas, as well as the head.
For more information about drowning and water safety, please visit the King County public health page at: http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/injury/drowning.aspx
So, have fun out there but stay safe, too!