News: Corps urges water safety over Independence Day
Story by Laurie Driver
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. –The Independence Day holiday is typically among the busiest times of the year at the region’s lakes and rivers, and this year, will likely be no exception even with the holiday falling during the middle of the week. It is a great time for outdoor water fun, but Army Corps of Engineers officials advise everyone to practice good water safety habits.
Corps park rangers caution that parks, lakes and rivers will be congested this week, and they ask visitors to be courteous while waiting at boat ramps, sharing beaches or traveling waterways.
The park rangers expect everyone to obey boating laws, and law enforcement officers will be on the lookout. In addition, the park rangers urge people to go a step further during this busy week by wearing a life jacket at all times, though not required of adults by law, it is the single most important step boaters can take to protect themselves.
If you don’t have a life jacket or forget yours, a limited supply of life jackets are available for loan at Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Clearwater, Greers Ferry, Nimrod, Blue Mountain, Millwood, Dierks, DeQueen and Gillham lakes, as well as several Corps parks along the Arkansas River.
Whether boating or swimming, avoid alcohol. More than half of all the people who drown consume alcohol prior to their accident, so don’t drink alcohol if you plan to have fun in or on the water.
Here are some other tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe:
* Learn to swim.
* Watch your children at all times, and put a life jacket on them.
* Never dive into lakes or rivers.
* Never rely on inner tubes, water wings or other toys to stay afloat.
* Don't over-estimate your swimming skills.
* Reach or throw a floatation device to help someone in trouble. Don't go in the water!
* Swim only in designated areas.
* Never swim alone.
* Know your boat and know the rules of the water.
* Check your boat for all required safety equipment.
* Don't overload the boat.
* Check the weather forecast, and check flow conditions if boating on a river.
* Post a sharp lookout and add even more care at night.
* File a float plan with family or friends who are not on the vessel.
Following these safety tips can help make your family’s holiday a safe and enjoyable one. Remember safety comes first!
Water safety tips and life jacket loaner program information can be found on the Internet at www.swl.usace.army.mil, Facebook at www.facebook.com/littlerockusace, and Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/usacelittlerock.