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Water Safety

With warm weather and the summer months upon us, many Novi community members are flocking to cooler venues, such as our lakes, waterways, and local pools for relaxing relief. When most people think of Novi, very few would say Walled Lake or water sporting activity. When in reality, two-thirds of Walled Lake is actually in Novi, and there are several other opportunities for outdoor water activity. That is why I chose Water Safety for this edition of Off the Cuff.

Kids playing in lakeEarlier this year, an unfortunate young man drowned in our community, possibly, because he was unaware of lake conditions and the hazards of swimming in restricted areas. And, numerous boaters take to our lakes every day and this provides a venue in which to remind the community of important safety tips.

One of the many simple ways to prevent accidents from happening in and around water is learning to swim. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports drowning claims more than 3,000 lives each year. Most water-related injuries happen when parents take their eyes off children. Whether you are heading to the local beach, a neighborhood pool, or just out the backdoor to your own pool, following these important water safety tips from the American Red Cross are a must and can prevent a deadly tragedy:

  • Never leave a child alone or unattended near the water. Even though a trained lifeguard may be present, all parents should practice "reach supervision," which means to be within arm's length of a child in case an emergency occurs.
  • Children who are not strong enough to swim on their own should use U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs). However, remember that PFDs cannot replace parental supervision.
  • All people (and especially children) should always swim with a buddy and be knowledgeable of the water environment, taking notice of deep and shallow areas, currents, exit areas and obstructions.
  • Watch your children for signs of the dangerous "toos"- too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun and too much strenuous activity.
  • Motor boat on lakeWater safety starts with your head, not your arms and legs. You can prevent many accidents from occurring by observing common-sense precautions and making sure you’re prepared before you reach the water:

  • Read and obey all posted signs and rules.
  • Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
  • Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
  • Pack a safety bag for a day at the beach or pool. Be sure to include waterproof sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, water shoes to keep feet safe from the heat and sharp objects on land and plenty of water for everyone to keep hydrated. All containers should be plastic to prevent injuries from breaking glass.
  • Carry a cellular telephone.
  • Know your location in the event have to dial 9-1-1.
  • Learn CPR.
  • When talking about water safety, one must not forget about boating safety. In recent weeks in the metropolitan Detroit area, we have seen several deaths attributed to boaters who failed to adhere to basic boat safety practices. Unfortunately, the consequences were deadly.

    No matter how much experience you have, it’s always a good idea for everyone to review boating safety rules before departures. The following 10 safety tips are offered by Discover Boating, a boater’s enthusiast’s website.

    1. Be Weather-wise
      Always check local weather conditions for boating safety before departure- TV and radio forecasts can be a good source of information. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds, or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe by getting off the water.
    2. Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist
      Proper boating safety means being prepared for any possibility on the water. From compliance with fire safety regulations to tips for fueling up, following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to make sure no boating safety rules or precautions have been forgotten.
    3. Use Common Sense
      One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense. This means operating at a safe speed at all times, especially in crowded areas. Be alert at all times, and steer clear of large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn. Also be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids, all of which have been placed there for one reason only- to ensure your own boating safety.
    4. Designate an Assistant Skipper
      Make sure more than only one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling, operations, and other boating safety tips. If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating safety rules to get everyone else back to shore.
    5. Develop a Float Plan
      Whether you choose to inform a family member or staff at your local marina, always be sure let someone else know your float plan in terms of where you’re going and how long you’re going to be gone.

      A float plan can include the following information: name, address, and phone number of trip leader: name and number of all passengers; boat type and registration information; trip itinerary; types of communication and signal equipment onboard.
    6. Make Proper Use of Lifejackets
      Did you know that the majority of drowning victims as the result of boating accidents were found not to be wearing a Lifejacket? Make sure that your family and friends aren’t part of this statistic by assigning and fitting each member of your onboard team with a Lifejacket-prior to departure.
    7. Avoid Alcohol
      Practice boating safety at all times by saving the alcohol for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved, and studies have also shown that the affect of alcohol is exacerbated by external effects such as sun and wind.
    8. Learn to Swim
      If you’re going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety means knowing how to swim. Local organizations such as the American Red Cross and others offer training for all ages and abilities- check to see what classes are offered in your area!
    9. Take a Boating Course
      Beginning boaters and experienced experts alike need be familiar with boating safety rules of operation. You can learn boating safety rules by taking a local community course offered by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office-Marine Division. Please refer to their website for a complete schedule.
    10. Always carry distress signals on board your watercraft.
      In the event you are out on the water and find yourself in distress, it is helpful for emergency responders to locate you if you have items such as emergency flares on board.