These safety precautions will help you and your loved ones play safe and have more fun in the water! Many accidents on the water are preventable, so let’s cover the basics for how to avoid emergencies as you splash, swim, float, paddle, boat, or ride a personal watercraft (e.g., Jet Ski).

Let’s talk swimming! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Spokane County swimming pools will remain closed this 2020 season. Community pool closures make it challenging for many to enjoy the water and participate in swimming lessons, and it will mean more people may flock to backyard pools or to beaches where no lifeguards are present. Always supervise children in the water. Young children should be barricaded from the water, placed in lifejackets, or watched closely to prevent drowning. For your safety, never swim alone. Can you swim well enough to save your life? Check your swimming competency.

Rivers and lakes. When swimming, wading, or playing in a lake or river, watch out for currents, waves, drop-offs, and underwater obstructions. There are hidden dangers in open water areas not designated for swimming. Lifejackets are recommended. Watch out for watercraft entering your swimming area.

Lifejackets save lives. It is the law in Spokane County that “all persons regardless of age shall wear a personal flotation device while on moving water.” Failure to comply results in a $76 fine. Be aware that tubes, rafts, or other inflatables do not count as personal flotation devices on moving water, so you will need to also wear a lifejacket. In addition, Washington state law requires all vessels, including canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards (SUPs), to have at least one properly fitted Coast Guard-approved lifejacket for each person on board. All children, 12 years of age or younger, are always required to wear lifejackets when on a vessel. Find a coupon for 25% off a lifejacket, fitting tips and more resources.

Paddle safe. Paddlecraft include kayaks, canoes, SUPs, rowboats, and inflatable fishing rafts are all subject to boating laws and regulations. Before setting out on a paddling adventure, preparation is essential. Review these important guidelines for safe paddling. Learn to select the proper leash and lifejacket for SUPs as some types may actually be dangerous. And, check out a free online paddlesport class.

Safety will float your boat! Boating can be a real treat, but now for some serious statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard. In 2019, 79% of all fatalities from boating accidents were deaths by drowning. Of those drowning victims, 86% were not wearing a lifejacket. Make sure you have properly fitted lifejackets for everyone aboard. Wearing a lifejacket can drastically increase your chances of survival if you are thrown overboard.

Partiers beware. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Never get on a boat with an intoxicated operator. Operating any vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, is not only unsafe—it’s illegal. Washington State’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law applies to all boats including kayaks, canoes, SUPs, rowboats, and inflatable fishing rafts.

Boater education. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that 70% of boating deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Learn to be a good operator and earn your Washington State Boater Education Card, which is mandatory for many boat and personal watercraft (e.g., jet ski) operators. Whether you cruise, sail, kayak, fish, or do yoga on an SUP, you are responsible to know the laws and basics of boating safety.

COVID-19 and water recreation. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 could spread through recreational water itself, but close contact between people is still not safe. In accordance with Governor Inslee’s current face covering order, people are to practice physical distancing when around people outside of their household, or they are to wear face coverings if distancing can’t be maintained. Do not wear a cloth face covering in the water. A mask won’t work when wet, and it could cause suffocation. Stay healthy and stay cool this summer!

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