As the summer heats up, boaters, floaters and swimmers are hitting the water to cool down. Montana’s many rivers, lakes and reservoirs offer fun recreational opportunities like swimming, boating and floating, but it’s important to remember to be safe while enjoying the water.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury/death for people of all ages, and that potentially, half of all boating deaths could be prevented with the use of life jackets. The CDC also states that among children 14 and under, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury/death (after motor vehicle crashes).
Parental/adult supervision alone is not enough to prevent water accidents when swimming, boating and floating in Montana's many bodies of water. Using the proper size and type of life jacket is crucial for all swimmers to be safe while recreating.
“It’s critical for everyone to wear the proper-sized life jacket when recreating on the water,” said FWP Boat Education Coordinator Sara Smith. “A jacket that is too big can easily slip off.”
To properly fit a life jacket, hold your arms straight up over your head and ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up. Make sure there is no excess room above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your chin or face.
Here are additional tips to keep you safe when you’re on the water:
- Make sure an adult is constantly watching children swimming or playing in or around the water. Have children playing near water wear life jackets as there may be steep drop-offs you are unaware of.
- Don't consider your children to be “drown-proof” because you enrolled them in swimming class. A child who falls into water unexpectedly may panic and forget learned swimming skills.
- Always swim with a buddy. Never swim alone or unsupervised.
- Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous to swimmers and boaters.
- Don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as water-wings, noodles, or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets. These are toys and are not designed to keep a swimmer safe.
- When boating, children under 12 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, but it is recommended that everyone on the boat wears a life jacket.
- Jumping from cliffs or bridges is dangerous because of shallow water, submerged rocks, trees, or other hazards. Never dive head-first into water.
- Never drink alcohol before or while swimming or boating. Never drink alcohol while supervising children.
For more information about boating safety, contact FWP Boat Education Coordinator Sara Smith at 406-444-9948, email@example.com.