Staying safe on the water this summer

Law enforcement officials hope area anglers and water enthusiasts will be careful on local waterways as summer weather is approaching. (Pioneer file photo)

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — Although it seemed at one time cold weather would never leaver, summer weather is approaching.

As temperatures rise, area water enthusiasts will be taking advantage, casting their boats off docks and kids will swim in area lakes and rivers.

Law enforcement officials urge residents to take the property safety precautions for any water activities.

Drowning is the fifth leading cause of accidental death for people throughout the country and the second leading cause of unintentional injury to children 14 and younger, according to the Michigan State Police.

“With the proper precautions, drowning and near-drowning incidents are preventable,” said MSP Community Service Trooper Ashley Simpson, said in a release. “To reduce the risk of drowning, it is important for parents to teach children proper water safety at a young age. Many young children have no fear of water, as they cannot comprehend how dangerous it can be.”

Osceola County Undersheriff John Keathely said local water temperatures are still quite cold.

“Falling in the water at this time of year would hamper someone’s ability to get out of the water quickly,” he said.

Keathely said it’s important for boaters to review all marine regulations and follow them as far as having the proper number of personal flotation devices onboard and to wear them.

“There also are several rules as to how to operate on the busy waterways, which they should be familiar with when they are out there,” he said.

Keathely also urges boaters and others not to drink alcohol when out on the waterways.

“It’s never a good idea,” he said. “We want people to have fun when they are out, but they need to be aware of their surrounding and make sure they operate any marine craft in a safe way.”

With the Michigan Department of Natural Resources offering a boater’s safety course online, Keathely said none are currently scheduled by the sheriff’s office.

“We find most people are taking the course online,” he said. “It’s a little bit more convenient for them. There hasn’t been a great demand since the DNR opened up that course online.”

In Mecosta County, the sheriff’s office has two boater’s safety courses scheduled during the summer.

The first one will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, at School Section Lake. The second course will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, at Brower Park. Anyone wishing to take part in one of these sessions should call the sheriff’s office at (231) 592-0150.

The MSP offers the following swimming safety tips:

• Only swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard or adult.

• Stay within designated swimming areas. Don’t swim near piers, pilings, platforms, docks, fishermen or tethered boats.

• Never swim alone, and don’t swim too far from shore.

• Heed warning flags at public beaches. A red flag means conditions are hazardous and you should not swim.

• Children or inexperienced swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFDs.

• Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.

• Always enter the water feet-first. Never dive head-first into the water.

• Beware of rip currents and undertow. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the current, then swim to shore.

• Never leave a child alone near a pool.

• Designate a responsible adult to watch the pool as the lifeguard.

• After swimming, remove all toys from the water and deck to avoid attracting young children into the pool unsupervised.

• Keep a phone and lifesaving equipment including a pole, rope and PFDs by the pool.

• Enclose the pool completely with a self-locking, self-closing fence with vertical bars.

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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