With warm weather approaching, many will spend summer in or around the water.

As Great Lakes stewards, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reminds visitors and residents the importance of practicing boat and water safety.

Great Lakes water levels are below last year’s record levels but will continue rising before peaking in the summer months. High water levels can increase dangers such as rip currents and waves, especially during periods of active weather. The Corps of Engineers urges caution around Great Lakes piers and breakwaters, particularly during times of high winds and waves.

People of all ages should always practice boat and water safety. Before entering or being around the water, keep these items listed below in mind, they could save your life or the life of someone you care about.

• Know before you go - Weather conditions around the Great Lakes can fluctuate rapidly. Stay informed with local beach hazard statements and current weather conditions.

• Practice safety around structures – Breakwater structures are built for navigation but are often used for recreation.

Walking along breakwater structures is dangerous – the uneven slippery surfaces, especially when doubled with wave action, increases the risk of falling or being swept into the water. Large armor stones are often hidden below the water surface. There is risk of getting wedged between armor stones or striking a stone with one’s body should an individual fall or jump into the water. Be safe, “steer clear of the pier.”

• Expect the unexpected – It is the boat owner’s responsibility to make sure all U.S. Coast Guard required equipment, such as life jackets, throwable device and fire extinguisher, are on board. Before every trip, perform a safety check of the vessel.

• Wear a life jacket – To ensure you survive unexpected slips or falls overboard, wear your life jacket, it buys you time to be rescued. It only takes an adult an average of 60 seconds to drown.

• Know your swimming abilities – Be aware that swimming in natural waters such as a lake, river or pond is different from swimming in a pool. Regardless of how well you swim, you could have to fight for your life due to unexpected conditions such as waves, current, or exhaustion. “Stay dry when waves are high.”

• Alcohol and water are a deadly combination – Alcohol induces an inner ear condition (caloric labyrinthitis) that can cause you to become disoriented when underwater and not realize which way is up. This is more likely to happen if you have been consuming alcohol.

• Understand “boater’s hypnosis” – A condition brought on by the effects of sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion experienced during a day of boating. Boater’s hypnosis can slow your reaction time almost as much as if you were legally intoxicated.

Learn more water safety tips by visiting www.lre.usace.army.mil/About/Water-Safety/.

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