Know these water safety tips as weather warms
With high temperatures throughout the week, the water is sure to be an attractive place for many during this Fourth of July. But while boating and swimming can be a lot of fun, it can also be dangerous.
Here are four water safety tips, courtesy of California State Parks spokeswoman Adeline Yee, to make sure you and your family have a fun, and safe, holiday.
1. Always wear a life jacket
A life jacket is the No. 1 key to safety, according to Yee.
Whether you're on a boat, in a lake or the ocean, or just near the water, having a life jacket can be the difference between staying alive and drowning.
"So many drownings could have been prevented if people wore a life jacket," Yee said. "That is always our number one tip to stay safe if you're in or near the water."
In Sacramento County, it is illegal for children under the age of 13 to access any public rivers or lakes without a life jacket. For those without their own life jackets, it's easy to borrow them from public agencies for free. The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways has a comprehensive list of all the agencies in California that loan out life jackets for the day.
If a child is found without a life jacket in public waters, the parents or guardians of that child can be fined up to $500 dollars.
Even if the water looks safe and shallow, or there are a lot of swimmers around, it's important to wear a life jacket. And in California, all boats are required to have at least one Coast Guard approved life jacket for each passenger.
But even more important than simply having a life jacket is making sure that it works; life jackets should be U.S. Coast Guard approved, and properly fitted. The jacket should be snug to your chest and the straps tight.
2. Never operate a boat while under the influence
If you're planning on boating this Wednesday, think about leaving the alcohol on shore. While it's not illegal to drink on a boat, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence. The blood alcohol limit for boating is 0.08 percent, the same as the limit for driving. And drunk passengers can fall overboard and get injured.
According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, boat operator intoxication is the leading factor in fatal boating accidents. And passenger intoxication is a contributing factor in approximately 25 percent of fatal motorboat accidents.
Even if you decide to bring alcohol on the boat for passengers to drink, it's important that someone other than the driver is alert, able to watch out for other passengers and take over for the boat's operator if need be.
"Always designate a passenger to stay sober," Yee said. "A designated skipper, basically."
3. Be well-versed in boat safety
If you're planning on operating a boat, it's important to know the rules of the waterways.
Before you go out on the water, make sure to have a firm grasp of the ins and outs of the boat and check that the boat has all the proper safety equipment, like life jackets.
Those under 20 who are planning on operating a boat are required to have completed a state-approved boat safety course, and obtained a boater card. By 2025, all California boaters will be required to have the boater card.
Before going out, those planning on boating should make sure to let someone staying on shore know all the details of their trip: where they're going, how long they're planning on being out and when they plan on returning.
In addition, make sure to watch out for other boats. "You don't want to get too close to other boats," Yee said, "because boats have no brakes."
4. Watch out for your children
Children who are in or near water should be supervised at all times by adults nearby.
Yee recommends that adults take turns being the designated supervisor, and switch off every thirty minutes to an hour.
According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, it's also important to know kids' limits.
"Swimming in a lake or ocean is a lot different than swimming in a pool," Yee reminded.
If you see someone who looks like they might be drowning, look for a lifeguard or call 911.
Ultimately, if you're planning on spending your holiday in or near the water, the important thing is to prioritize your safety.
And enjoy yourself.
"We just want people to be safe, and have a lot of fun," Yee said. "But to also be smart, and protect your family."