After the long and rainy winter, we know many of you are itching to spend some time outside, in and on the water, soaking up some rays (with at least SPF 15 on, of course). But, before jumping in, know the risks. The weather is warming up, but our area’s lakes, rivers and open water are still extremely cold. Cold water can cause even the strongest swimmers to become incapacitated from cold-water shock, causing muscles to stop working within minutes of immersion in cold water. The best decision this time of year, especially for rivers, is to stay out.
Cold water, the wettest winter on record, and a Cascade Range snowpack that is well above average for the month of May have created particularly risky conditions this year causing rivers to be cold, fast and deep. Just this week King County has experienced tragedy and close calls: A young person drowned while swimming along the upper reaches of the south fork Snoqualmie River near North Bend. Another, young person remains in critical condition in a hospital after a near-drowning episode along the Green River upstream of Auburn. In 2016, 22 people in King County died in preventable drownings, a concerning increase from 17 preventable drowning deaths in 2015.
To stay safe this weekend and throughout the summer follow these five water safety tips:
Wear a life jacket. Because nobody plans to drown
Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket when boating, tubing, rafting, swimming or other activities in or on lakes, rivers, open water, or pools without a lifeguard. Infants and children should always wear life jackets, “water wings” and “noodles” don’t count. Remember, when boating to wear your life jacket, if your life jacket is stowed somewhere on the boat, you may not be able to reach the life jacket in case of an emergency. For children 12 years old and younger, it’s the law on all vessels less than 19 feet.
You can borrow a lifejacket from lifejacket loaner stations at these locations: http://bit.ly/2qTLHCK
Find information on affordable life jackets here.
Swim where there’s a lifeguard
Only swim in areas with lifeguards. Many beaches in King County don’t have lifeguards until mid to late June, so wear a life jacket while swimming in those areas in the meantime. Check this list to see when your local beach will have lifeguards. Two beaches in Seattle will have lifeguards starting this week- those are Madrona Beach on Lake Washington and East Green Lake Beach. Consider going there!
Supervise children in or near water
Stay within touching distance of young children at all times when you are in or near the water. Avoid distractions and have adults take turns watching children near the water.
Do not use alcohol or drugs during water activities
Alcohol, marijuana, and water recreation don’t mix. Never use alcohol, marijuana, or other impairing drugs during water and boating activities or while supervising children around the water. Alcohol affects balance, coordination, and judgement. Exposure to sun and heat worsen these effects.
Learn to Swim: Including water safety and survival skills
In order to enjoy the water safely, learn swim strokes (you can start this weekend!), to float, and to tread water for at least 10 minutes. Also, learn first aid and CPR. Full CPR, which combines chest compressions and breaths, is best for a drowned person. Seconds count—the more quickly lifesaving CPR is started, the better the chances of recovery. Dial 911 in an emergency.
Image credit: Gan Khoon Lay, Nikita Kozin, and Nikolay Necheuhin.
Originally posted on May 26, 2017