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Water safety is no accident

Planning is required to keep everyone safe

POSTED July 4, 2011 8:39 a.m.
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The extended Fourth of July weekend was an especially deadly one across Kansas, with several reports of drownings, both in lakes and at private residences.
Experts warn that there are ways to make water recreation safer, and it begins with some elemental safety issues that need to always be followed, regardless of the age of the person in the water.
In other parts of the nation, as the summer heat grows, people are concerned about having too much water this summer.
They are worried that the water is going to keep rising and cause damage.
But they are also worried because the high water makes outdoor recreation even more popular than usual, and that puts people at risk.
According to the Associated Press, in part of Nebraska they are concerned because they have more water than normal. “Al Berndt of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency says water levels are higher than normal and water is flowing faster as the state deals with heavy rains and flooding along the Missouri and Platte rivers. He says Nebraskans need to be aware of weather conditions and news reports on flooding as they plan their holiday activities.
“The Missouri River is closed to all boats along the Nebraska border because of flooding. NEMA says other Nebraska rivers, streams and creeks are running high, and lakes could be deeper and larger than normal.”
While we don’t have more water than usual, because we have, instead, high temperatures that leave people looking for fun ways to cool down, it is still a good idea to follow safety regulations if you turn to water for relief from our super-hot days.
According to Fire Chief Mike Napolitano, one crucial step is to make sure that everyone who gets near the water, even on a boat, is equipped with an appropriate, approved flotation devise. And part of that being appropriate is that it fit, no matter how small the person is.
While it may be inconvenient to make sure there are devices that are small enough for toddlers, it is especially crucial for them, because a device that is too large may actually force the child’s face into the water.
Many adults believe they can swim well enough to face most challenges, but swimming skills are meaningless if a person is unconscious, and many drowings happen when a person is struck in the head and can’t keep themselves afloat. Again, it’s important to not only have a flotation device, but for it to fit properly.
Other safety tips, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, include:
Life jacket safety:
• Be sure it’s right for you. The National Safe Boating Council recommends that it should be a personal flotation device (PFD) suited for your size and weight, is properly zipped and buckled, and fits snugly.
• Be sure its right for your activity. There are jackets designed especially for fishing, water sports, personal watercraft, hunting and paddling. There are even PFDs for pets.
• Be sure there is a PFD for each person on board—State law requires that the PFD’s are out and accessible on a boat and not stored out of reach.
• Be sure it’s right for children—Use the weight of the child to find the proper fitting PFD. If the jacket is too big the child can slip out of it when they jump in the water; if it is too small it may not have enough buoyancy to float them. 
Other water tips include: 
• Do not mix alcohol and water. More than half of all drowning deaths are related to alcohol consumption.
• Watch your children. It only takes a child an average of 20 seconds to drown. Be a water watcher and designate someone to always watch children or any person with special needs while on or around the water.
• Make good decisions. Don’t give in to peer pressure about jumping off a bluff or swimming farther than you should. Recognize your limitations and stay within them.
• Practice safe boating. Take a boating safety course. Know the law and rules of the road before you boat. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that the majority of boating-related fatalities involve operators who have not received any boating safety instruction.

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