Safe Kids Grand Forks Advocates for Child Safety During National Safe Boating Week

Safe Kids Grand Forks urges parents and caregivers to take extra measures to keep kids safe during National Safe Kids Boating Week on May 17-23. It is estimated that half of boating-related drownings could be prevented by the use of life jackets. Whether it’s during vacation or part of an ordinary day, boating can be fun for the entire family – as long as everyone remains safe. We can’t stress it enough: On a boat, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times.

Safe Kids Grand Forks strongly encourages parents and caregivers to look for a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. ‘Water wings’ and other inflatable swimming aids such as inner tubes do not prevent drowning.

Children ages 14 and under should also wear life jackets not only on boats, but near open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Children under 13 are required to wear life jackets on any recreational vessel in waters under Coast Guard jurisdiction unless they are below deck or within an enclosed cabin. Safe Kids Grand Forks urges parents and caregivers to wear life jackets on boats or other watercraft as well.  Children are much more likely to practice safe habits when they witness similar behavior by parents and caregivers. Your children will pick up and embrace your safety habits.

Safe Kids Grand Forks also reminds parents and caregivers:

+ Always supervise children when they are around any type of water. Designate a “Water Watcher” – a responsible adult who is in charge of watching children while they are in or near water. The Water Watcher should not be distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others.

+ Always wear a life jacket. Adults and children should wear life jackets in or around open bodies of water and on boats. Life jackets should fit snugly and keep the child’s head above water. Make sure the life jacket is appropriate for the child’s size and weight, and is properly fastened. Quick Check: Put the life jacket on the child and have the child make a “touchdown” signal with arms raised. If the neck opening of the life jacket comes over the child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.  

+ Learn how to swim and only swim in designated swimming areas. Enroll children in swim lessons taught by a certified instructor. Knowing how to swim does not prevent drowning, but it is an important skill for both children and adults to learn. Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool – they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.

+ Learn CPR and know how to use rescue equipment – these are important skills to know if there is an emergency.

+ Take a boating safety course. Make sure the boat operator has passed a boating safety course approved by the U.S. Coast Guard before your child or family rides in the boat. For more information about safe boat operations and free Vessel Safety Checks, contact the local Coast Guard Auxiliary at www.uscgboating.org.

+ Do not let children operate or ride on personal watercrafts such as jet skis. These are intended for adults and require special training.

+ Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Know where and how CO may accumulate around your boat, and install a CO detector to alert you to dangerous levels of exhaust fumes.

+ Avoid alcoholic beverages. Never drink alcoholic beverages while boating — a large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers.

National Safe Boating Week is an annual educational campaign, coordinated by the National Safe Boating Council (www.safeboatingcouncil.org), running the week prior to Memorial Day.

For more information about drowning and boating-related injuries, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at safekids@altru.org. Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.

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