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Prevent Tragedies on the Water this Summer

June 29, 2010

For more information contact:

Deborah Needham, Emergency Management Director, 425-430-7027
Preeti Shridhar, Communications Director, 425-430-6569

Supervise children playing near water; always wear a life jacket.

Water SafetyRenton, WA – Swimming, boating, and other forms of water recreation are popular pastimes in this area and throughout Washington State. In some circumstances, these activities can prove to be dangerous and fatal. The most current statistics report that in 2008 there were 123 residents in our state who died from unintentional drowning, including 16 boating-related drowning deaths.

Even on the hottest summer days, Washington waters are cold enough to cause hypothermia and weaken even the strongest swimmer. It is important for everyone to know their limits. Drowning often happens when someone tires while swimming. Water that is warm on the surface may be much colder below.  Rivers may not be moving as fast as they did in the spring, however, log jams can trap swimmers and large rocks or logs can tip over rafts, canoes and kayaks.

Last week alone, one person drowned in Lake Sammamish and another had to be revived after going under in a lake near Maple Valley. During the month of June at least six separate rescue operations of stranded recreational boaters and floaters occurred on King County rivers, including three on the Cedar River where strong currents, cold water, and natural log-jams increase recreational risk.

“Drowning is a tragedy that often can be prevented,” says Mark Peterson, Fire Chief /Emergency Services Administrator. “It can be as simple as putting on a life jacket, keeping a closer eye on children when they are in or near the water and learning how to perform cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).”

If a person isn’t a strong swimmer they should always wear a life jacket around any body of water and on boats. Be sure it fits properly and is fastened correctly. State law says all children 12 and under must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket or vest on all vessels 19 feet and under.

To keep yourself and others safe remember:

  • Learn to swim and other water safety survival skills
  • Always swim with others
  • Obey all safety signs, warning flags and adhere to the rules in public swimming pools and beaches
  • Never go in the water after drinking alcohol
  • Wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket
  • Swim in areas with lifeguards
  • Always enter shallow and unknown water feet first
  • Learn CPR and how to recognize and treat hypothermia

Artificial/personal floatation devices are not a substitute for adult supervision of children.

For more information about drowning prevention visit rentonwa.gov.