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Open Water Safty

07/01/2009 - Drowning remains to be the leading cause of death among children from birth to age 4 and is the second leading cause of death between the ages of 1 and 19. According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, of the 838 children who drowned in 2003, 88% were under supervision. That is how quickly something can happen.

Adults are also at risk. Diving into water is a common source of head and spinal cord injury. If you are in water in which you cannot determine its depth, jump in feet first. Both swimming and fishing from a boat has also caused drownings. Standing in the boat to cast your line, leaning over to net your catch, or simply moving about in the boat can cause you to fall out or capsize, creating a drowning potential.

Other high-risk activities that can cause drowning include use of alcohol and drugs. Mixing these with your summer water activities can be fatal due to impairment in judgment, balance, and coordination.

In addition there are those common but deadly "too's" too tired, too much sun, too much exertion, too cold, or too far from safety or shore.

Another major hazard when in or on the water is lightning. Today's fiberglass-constructed small boats are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes since any projection above the flat surface of the water acts as a potential lightning rod. In many cases, the small boat operator or casual weekend sailor is not aware of this vulnerability to the hazards of lightning.

If caught in a storm on the open water, follow these tips: stop all water-related activity; be sure you are wearing your personal flotation device (PFD); stay low in the boat or, if equipped with a cabin, go inside and remain in the center; don't dangle body parts in the water; don't make contact with multiple metal objects in the boat.

Carbon monoxide is another deadly hazard when boating. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health states that a typical boat engine puts out the equivalent exhaust of 188 cars. Skiing, surfing, or swimming behind a boat can cause an overexposure to this deadly gas. The swim platform in the back of a boat is considered to be the most dangerous place in terms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not select that spot for sunning, napping, or playing.

And some last minute safety tips: never swim alone; stay hydrated drink plenty of water; use sunscreen; use insect repellent; if boating, maintain the safety equipment required to be on water vessels and always wear your PFD; do not swim in open boat lanes or near piers; check the surf conditions and be alert for riptides and currents; check weather reports if planning to be on the water.

Water activities are fun and provide for many happy family memories. Take the common sense precautions so you, your family, and your friends continue to build on those good memories and so that everyone returns safely home. Have a great summer!

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