Coast Guard reminds all of safety this holiday weekend

Boaters, swimmers reminded to remain safe

Author: Derick Hutchinson, ClickOnDetroit.com
Published On: Aug 29 2013 03:56:34 PM EDT
CLEVELAND, Ohio -

Following a number of swimming and boating accidents on the Great Lakes over the last several weeks, the Coast Guard is urging those who plan to recreate on the Great Lakes during Labor Day weekend, or at any other time, to take appropriate safety precautions.

Labor Day weekend marks the end of the traditional beach and boating seasons on the Great Lakes, and is usually one of the busiest for the Coast Guard.

During the month of August, the Coast Guard's 9th District conducted search-and-rescue cases in Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior and other navigable waterways within the Great Lakes region, like the St. Marys River, which highlighted the importance of proper preparation and boaters looking out for one another.

"Accidents happen fast and unexpectedly on the water," said Michael Baron, Coast Guard 9th District Recreational Boating and Water Safety Program manager. "Individuals looking to celebrate the traditional end of summer on the Great Lakes mustn't let their guard down. Everyone needs to be conscientious and practice personal safety so that their celebration doesn't turn into a tragedy."

"Whatever the activity, keep an eye on the weather and water conditions," Baron said. "Avoid using alcohol and wear your life jacket when boating."

Alcohol plays a major role in boating accidents and fatalities. As of Aug. 28, 2013, the Coast Guard has issued 122 boating under the influence citations, 40 of which were federal tickets.

The Coast Guard encourages swimmers and boaters to always check the current and forecasted marine weather before heading to the water. Even on seemingly nice days, waves and underwater currents may be more than the average swimmer or boater can handle. Marine forecasts can be found on the National Weather Service's website.

The following are additional safety tips all boaters should abide by:

Drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States and the second leading cause of accidental death for swimmers aged 5 to 44.  The Coast Guard recommends the following tips for swimmers:

According to United States Lifesaving Association statistics, 80 percent of beach rescues are necessary due to rip currents, and more than 100 people die annually from drowning in rip currents.  The following are tips on identifying, avoiding and escaping rip currents:

Finally, the Coast Guard reminds mariners that water temperatures will start to descend rapidly with the change in seasons. Hypothermia is a risk regardless of water temperature, but cooler waters accelerate its onset.

A person in cold water without proper protective closing will lose functional movement in fingers, arms and legs within minutes. At this point, a victim who is not wearing a life jacket will likely drown because he or she can no longer tread water and remain afloat.

Even with a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, hypothermia is a threat to survival once someone is exposed to cold water. The body may lose heat 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. When recreating outdoors, mariners should dress for the water temperature — not the air temperature.