Georgia Department of Natural Resources Conservation Ranger Phillip Scott said people can avoid most swimming and boating accidents this summer if they follow these easy safety tips. Scott spoke to parents and kids about how to stay safe and not become a statistic during the Safe Kids Day on May 7 in Hinesville.
1. Wear a PFD: “Always wear a personal flotation device when boating, or have non-swimmers wear PFDs when near water,” Scott said. “Many drownings of non-swimmers occur when they are wading in water they believe is safe.”
He suggests boaters check PFDs to ensure they function properly and are in good condition, know where a vessel’s PFDs are stored and be sure there are enough PFDs on hand for all passengers.
“If a serious problem arises, you may not have time to locate and put on your PFD,” Scott said.
2. Throw, row, then go: “This rhyme refers to how to help a swimmer in trouble,” the DNR ranger said. “You do not want to make body contact with a person in distress in the water. The first thing someone drowning wants to do is climb on top of you to get out of the water. It’s best to throw some type of flotation to the person. If nothing is available, try to row to the person in something that supports you, such as a small boat, raft, swimming aid or PFD. The last option is to go to the person directly.”
Scott said if you do go to a drowning person directly, let them “grab something other than you,” such as a towel, shirt, dock line or boat paddle.
3. Never drink and drive: “Operating a vessel and drinking don’t mix,” he said. “One of the first things to happen when drinking is your judgment becomes impaired. You then make mistakes, like thinking you can safely operate the vessel. If you must drink while in a boat, get a designated driver.”
4. File a float plan: “Let someone know where you are going, what you’ll be doing and how to get in touch with you,” Scott said.
5. Don’t forget lights: People sometimes overlook lights until they need them, the ranger said.
“Sometimes people have motor trouble, get stuck on a sand bar or stay out longer than planned and forget about the need for lights,” Scott said. “Check all your equipment before going out (on the water) to make sure you can return safely.”
For more information on water safety, go to www.safeboatingcouncil.org or www.goboatgeorgia.com.