With temperatures expected to reach the 80s this Mother s Day weekend, people will be tempted to hit the water. But the Coast Guard and state health officials say those waters are still very cold and can be dangerous.
We love to be on the water here in Washington, said State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. But we may forget that, unless you're practicing kayak moves at the local indoor pool, water can be so cold that you might not survive a quick dip without a life jacket. More people drown in Washington in May and July than other months.
The Coast Guard recommends life jackets be worn by everyone who is on the water. In Washington, children younger than 13-years-old are required to wear life jackets on boats shorter than 19 feet. Make sure they are correctly fitted for the child's size.
If you re on a river or lake, DOH warns you steer clear of branches, logjams, small dams and waterfalls that can pin you underwater. On the ocean beaches, rip currents, sneaker waves, undertow, and tidal changes can sweep you off your feet and out to sea. Children should be watched closely at all times.
More water safety tips from the Department of Health:
Know Your Limits
Swimming in open water (lakes, rivers, ponds, Puget Sound, and the ocean) is harder than in a pool. People tire faster and get into trouble more quickly. A person can go under water in a murky lake, making them very hard to find, or be swept away in currents. Avoid swimming where two rivers come together - many good swimmers have gotten into trouble or drowned in currents that didn't seem to be moving that fast.
Swim in a life-guarded area, especially if you are not a strong swimmer.
Be cautious of sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers. People who can't swim or aren't strong swimmers have slipped into deeper water and drowned.
When boating, don't overload the boat and wear a life jacket that fits. Many people have drowned when they fell overboard while fishing, hunting, or pulling up a crab pot.
Stay sober when on or in the water. Alcohol and other drugs increase the effects of weather, temperature, and wave action.
Wear a Life Jacket That Fits You
Even the best water enthusiasts can misjudge changing water conditions when boating or swimming in open water. Be prepared at all times by wearing a life jacket - you'll never know when you'll be tossed into the water.
Have children wear a life jacket that fits them, and watch them closely around water - they can go under water quickly and quietly.
A number of water safety laws were passed to improve the use of life jackets and prevent drowning:
Children 12 years old and under must wear a life jacket that fits them on moving boats less than 19 feet in length in Washington.
Recreational boats must carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacketfor each person aboard. The life jacket must be available and accessible. This is a nationwide Coast Guard rule.
Check river or steam conditions by contacting the United States Geological Surveyat 253-428-3600 ext. 2635. King County also updates water conditions and hazards for rivers and streams at this website.
Take life jackets, a rescue device, a cell phone, and someone who knows CPR when you are out on the water.
Check beach advisories before you go swimming.
Boaters must obtain their Boater Education Card from State Parks.
Parents must tell their children about the dangers of open water at rivers, lakes, and beaches. Know where your child is, who they are with, and when they are expected home.
Parents are powerful role models - if you wear a life jacket, it's more likely your children will too.