The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Conchas Lake reminds lake vistors over the Labor Day weekend to play it safe as they enjoy the last weekend of summer.
“There are some essential safety tips that will keep you, your friends and family safe while enjoying time at area lakes,” said Michael Vollmer, USACE natural resource specialist at Conchas Lake.
Vollmer said before heading out to the lake, boaters should make sure they have a life jacket on hand for everyone on board.
Boaters should make sure that life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved, are the right size, the right fit, and are appropriate for the activity planned.
Vollmer said the next step is to ensure everyone wears a life jacket. He said on average, nine out of 10 people who drowned at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake or river site didn’t wear a life jacket.
“Life jackets save lives by keeping you afloat and providing time for rescue,” Vollmer said “Remember, it won’t work if you don’t wear it.”
Vollmer said people should also inspect their life jackets to make sure they are serviceable and will work on the water. He said sometimes people leave life jackets on boat and exposure to the weather will dry out or crack them, making them less effective.
Vollmer said it is also important to remember that an inflatable water toy is not the same as a life jacket. He said water toys are not made to hold up in rough water or in a drowning situation.
Visitors without life jackets can contact the ranger staff at Conchas and take advantage of their life jacket loaner program.
Vollmer said many USCAE projects have loaner programs that allows a person to check out a life jacket while at the lake and return it when they are leaving. There is also a life jacket exchange program in which visitors may trade an older, non-serviceable life jacket for a newer one.
Vollmer said if children are swimming, adults should plan to take turns being a “water watcher” and keep an eye on the kids while they are swim. He said a child can drown in as little as 20 seconds and advised that adults should stay within an arm’s reach of children while supervising them.
Vollmer said its also a good idea for swimmers to always swim with a buddy, someone that can watch and assist or go for help if there’s trouble.
A buddy, he said, can can reach a swimmer with a hand or a paddle, throw them a flotation device. If the buddy can’t help that way, they can go for help and seek out a park ranger or police officer.
Each year, swimmers get into trouble swimming after a toy, a boat or some other object that drifts away. No object is worth drowning for, Vollmer said. He said it is better to let the item go or put on a properly fitted life jacket before swimming out to retrieve the item.
Vollmer also advised that swimmers should avoid jumping from cliffs or ledges into the lake. He said water levels behind dams could vary greatly due to water releases.
“What might be a safe jump one day may be dangerous the next,” Vollmer said.
Vollmer said another key fact to know is to avoid drinking alcohol and swimming. He said alcohol adversely impairs one’s ability to swim.
He said people should also remember that boats and alcohol don’t mix. Operating a boat under the influence is illegal and, as with driving, the legal blood alcohol content level is .08 percent blood alcohol content. Boat operators under the influence are subject to the same punishment and fines as intoxicated drivers, he said.
More safety tips for Labor Day Weekend
Source: The American Red Cross
Tips for Safe Travel
Take emergency supplies such as food and water, a flashlight and a first aid kit.
Let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive.
Buckle up and obey traffic signs.
Avoid texting and talking on the phone while driving.
Don’t drink and drive.
Tips for Safe Swimming
Check weather and beach conditions throughout the day.
Always swim in an area supervised by a lifeguard and obey all warnings.
Provide close and constant attention to children in or near the water.
Stay within arm’s reach of young children and inexperienced swimmers while they are in the water.
Young children, inexperienced swimmers and boaters should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
Tips for Safe Grilling
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Keep children and pets away from the grill.
Never add charcoal starter fluid after coals have been ignited.
Use long-handled utensils.
Don’t leave the grill unattended while in use.