Thursday, June 13, 2024

Water safety reminders as boating season begins

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OLYMPIA  – Recreational boating is a popular pastime in Washington. In fact, nearly 225,000 vessels were registered in 2023. When you include Washington residents who own at least one canoe, kayak, rowboat or stand-up paddle board, boats and boaters are everywhere! During the month of May, those who participate in boating activities (and those who don’t!) are encouraged to keep safety in mind.

Recreation is not without risk. The chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest can be unforgiving, and safety must be on the minds of everyone who plays in and around Washington’s waterways. That’s why the Washington State Parks Recreational Boating Safety Program is promoting a series of water safety campaigns in advance of the summer season.

This year, Washington State will recognize its first annual Water Safety Day on May 15. Water Safety Day was created with the passing of House Bill 1750, also known as Yori’s Law. The bill was sponsored by Chezik Tsunoda, a water safety advocate and founder of the non-profit, No More Under. The day aims to raise awareness of the danger of drowning and promote water safety skills.

National Safe Boating Week takes place from May 18 to 24 and is coordinated each year by the National Safe Boating Council and boating safety partners across the United States and Canada. The campaign gives boaters tools to make responsible decisions daily, such as always wearing a life jacket, carrying the right equipment and never boating under the influence.

The week will kick off with Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day on May 17. This is a fun occasion where people can normalize life jacket wear by sporting theirs at their workplace or in virtual meetings, sharing photos and connecting on social media using #WearYourLifeJacketToWorkDay.

Tips for Boating Safety:

  • Always Wear a Life Jacket. Wearing a life jacket and encouraging others to do the same is the single most important step to staying safe. The life jacket should be U.S. Coast Guard Approved and fit appropriately.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Washington state’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law applies to all boats including kayaks, canoes, row boats and inflatable fishing rafts.
  • Bring communication devices. Boaters should carry two forms of communication that will work when wet, such as a whistle, waterproof cell phone or Marine radio.
  • Check and understand the weather. Boaters should check the weather frequently before and during their boating excursion, keeping an eye on current conditions and forecasts.
  • Beware of cold-water shock. The biggest risk is not hypothermia, it is cold-water shock, which occurs in the first stage of immersion. Boaters need to take caution and prepare themselves by always wearing a life jacket.
  • Use an engine cut-off switch. Boaters are encouraged to use their engine cut-off switch every time they go boating.
  • Get educated. All boaters and paddlers are responsible for knowing the laws and keeping themselves and others safe.

For more information on boating safety, and other resources to promote Safe Boating Week, visit www.parks.wa.gov/Boating.

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