Langley – Wear it.
Two short words, one simple slogan. However, “wear it” may be the most important piece of advice you get this summer if you are headed to the lake because it is intended to remind you to wear your life jacket while boating.
That is an important message that the Grand River Dam Authority shares all year long, but in conjunction National Safe Boating Week (May 18 – 24), it is a good time to reinforce the reasons why life jackets are so important.
According to the latest statistics from United States Coast Guard (USCG), there were 4,588 boating accidents in the United States in 2011 and unfortunately, those accidents led to 758 deaths. Seventy (70) percent of all those fatal boating accident victims drowned and, of those, 84 percent were NOT wearing life jackets.
That is an unfortunate trend that can be changed if boaters would only take the time to wear it.
“The GRDA Police Department has always stressed ‘boating smart, boating safe and boating sober’,” said GRDA Corporate Communications Director Justin Alberty, “and wearing a life jacket is a smart and safe thing to do while you are on the water.”
GRDA carries that message even further in the summer months during its annual “I Got Caught” life jacket awareness campaign. If the GRDA Police catches boaters doing the right thing (wearing life jackets) on Grand and Hudson lakes, they might just pull them over and reward them with a special t-shirt.
“This is a great way to promote life jacket usage while allowing our officers to interact with the public,” said Alberty. “Our hope is that we can “catch” a lot of adults wearing jackets too, as a way to set an example for the children on the boats.”
That is a very important example when you consider some facts about drowning. According to the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC), most drowning accidents
are 10 feet or less from a safe place and in most situations, the person never intended to enter the water. To untrained bystanders, a drowning person may appear to simply be waving, clowning around or just splashing. The three best ways to prevent drowning while boating include always wearing a life jacket, learning to swim and boating sober. Most people who drowned in boating accidents had a life jacket available but were not wearing it when they entered the water.
Of course, just having a life jacket available is an important first step. And even though GRDA has shared the following tips before, they are good to keep in mind as you get your gear ready for the summer 2013 boating season.
― BUY your own personal life jacket and use it. One size does not fit all.
― LOOK at the label. It will provide weight, size and use information.
― TRY it on to check the fit. Once the straps and buckles are secured, it should not slip over your head.
― NEVER use water toys in place of an approved life jacket.
― CHECK your life jacket yearly for flotation and fit.
As for proper life jacket care and maintenance, the NSBC offers these tips as well:
― Dry it before storing
― Store it in a cool, well-ventilated area
― Keep it where it can be easily retrieved
― Replace it when signs of wear appear
― Don’t alter the jacket
― Don’t dry clean or use harsh cleansers
― Don’t use direct heat to dry or leave in the sun indefinitely
― Don’t use your jacket as a cushion, a kneeling pad or as a boat fender
To properly test your life jacket before use, the NSBC suggests the following: “While wearing your life jacket, walk into water up to your chest in a supervised area. Draw your feet off the bottom, tilt your head back and allow your body to float in a relaxed manner. Your mouth and nose should be out of the water and you should comfortably float with no effort. If the jacket rides up, secure it more tightly to your body. If it continues to ride up, try a smaller size jacket or a different style. A child’s jacket must fit snugly and a child should not ‘grow into’ it!.”
It is important to note that GRDA lake rules require all boats to carry a United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) or life jackets for each person on board. On vessels less than 26 feet in length, while underway, each passenger 12 years of age or younger is also required to wear a PFD (although ALL passengers are encouraged to wear it ALL the time). Anyone operating or riding as a passenger on a personal watercraft (PWC), water skis, sailboard, surfboard, wakeboard, parasail or similar device is also required to wear an approved flotation device.
“Once upon a time, the excuse was that many life jackets were bulky and uncomfortable to wear,” said Alberty. “That’s not the case these days. Many modern life jacket designs are lightweight and comfortable enough to be worn all day.”
So “Wear It.”
That is the message from the GRDA Police Department, the National Safe Boating Council, the United States Coast Guard and others, including your own family members, who want you to have an enjoyable and safe outing on the waters this year.
“We always like to remind people that life jackets only work if you wear them,” said Alberty. “The best life jacket in the world does you no good if you never put it on.”
For more information on GRDA, the GRDA Police Department and lake rules, visit grda.com. If you need immediate assistance while on the water, the GRDA Police encourages you to dial 911. If you don’t have a cell phone available on your boat you can also radio for help on Marine Band 16. Finally, be sure to drop by the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Center in Langley this summer to pick up more information about the GRDA lakes area. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the building will be open 9AM to 4PM, seven days a week. At other times of the year, it is open 8AM to 4:30PM, Monday-Friday.
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