Staying safe on the water this summer

HELENA – A day of fun in the sun can turn for the worst in a blink of an eye, so officials are urging you to be safe out on the water over the holiday weekend.  

Bob Drake, is the Fire Chief for Tri-Lakes Volunteer Fire Department, and he says the first thing you can do to stay safe out on the water is to not let the warm weather fool you, because the water is a lot colder than you think it is and can cause hypothermia.  

He also says you can’t change the temperature of the lake, but what you can do is monitor the time you are spending in the water and to not stay in it for a long period of time. It is also important to get out and let your body warm back up, because the water sucks the heat out of you 32 times faster than the air does.  

“You’re just enveloped in it, so every inch of you is sending heat out into the water and it will put it out of you very quickly,” said Drake.   

Drake says hypothermia can also be hard to recognize. But if you are concerned about someone, he says you can look at the color of the person to see if they look blue or have goose bumps or if they have a loss of coordination, fatigue or confusion.  

If you suspect someone does have hypothermia, Drake says to take all of their wet clothes off as soon as possible, dry them off and cover them back up and take them inside or somewhere warm. 

David Webster, Ambulance Manager for St. Peter’s Health, says there are three major concerns when it comes to summer fun. Boating accidents, Hypothermia and drowning.  

He says drowning can be very hard to spot, because sometimes drowning doesn't really look like drowning. He says often times it’s very subtle, they may be bobbing up and down and may never yell for help.  

“Really the big thing is to be alert around the water ways and pay attention to those folks who may be drowning but of course who aren’t doing the large movements like we expect,” said Webster.  

Webster also says the best ways to stay safe this weekend is to know the waters you are in, watch each other for abnormal movements while swimming and lastly use common sense.  

He also says another concern are jet skis verses boat accidents, which can be preventable by keeping your distance. 

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