With the recent warm weather in Seattle, a lot more people are getting out and enjoying water activities but that has led to more accidents and drownings. The water looks inviting but can be deceiving and is still very cold at this time of year.
The U.S. Coast Guard estimates life jackets could save the lives of over 80 percent of boating fatality victims.
"The number one safety tip is to have a life jacket on. We very seldom find anyone alive in the water if they do not have a life jacket on," said Bob Meng, owner of On-Water Training.
Children aged 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times while on an open boat 19-feet or under and it is required by law that there be a life jacket on board for every person.
The water temperature in the Puget Sound right now is in the mid to high 40s and the lakes and rivers are not much warmer -- which means hypothermia can set in quickly. There are several signs to watch for.
"Some of the first signs of hypothermia we don't think about because you might just be shivering a little. From there you will get goose bumps and your color will start to turn blue on your fingernails and lips and from there you will become unconscious once your body temperature drops below 92 degrees," said Meng.
If you do find yourself stranded in cold water, Meng encourages curling up in the fetal position to conserve body heat and staying put. He says many people attempt to swim to shore and it often is much farther than it looks.
One of the biggest issues facing rescuers is getting to people that have broken down. It is crucial to maintain your boat.
"Take care of your boat at the dock not out on the water," said Meng.
State law requires boat operators to carry a Washington State Boater Education card when operating motorboats with 15 horsepower or greater (including personal watercraft or any motorized watercraft). In 2012, anyone under 40 needs to have the card - http://www.parks.wa.gov/boating/boatered/
For more information on water safety visit the following websites:
- On-Water Training: http://www.onwatertraining.com
- U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center: http://www.uscgboating.org/
- Discover Boating safety tips: http://www.discoverboating.com/beginner/safety/tips.aspx
- National Safe Boating Week: http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com/