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Lake Safety

Alabama is known for its beautiful lakes and enjoying them is a rite of summer.  However, before your family heads to the water, you’ll want to take these precautions to ensure your visit is enjoyable and safe.

Always Wear a Coast Guard Approved Vest

Debbie Coshatt, RN, and nurse educator in Patient Health and Safety at Children’s of Alabama reminds us the importance of being safety conscious at the lake, “Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children,” she says, “Anytime the children are outside, near water, you want to make sure they are wearing a Coast Guard approved life vest.”

Coshatt points out that pool toys like floats and rings are not Coast Guard approved and should not be used; they can give children a false sense of security.  Instead, check your child’s life vest, and be sure it says, “Coast Guard approved” on the tag.

In addition, children should never be left to swim without adult supervision.   Coshatt reminds parents that drowning is often a silent emergency, and that a child can disappear in seconds.

No Diving

Kids and adults often enjoy jumping into a lake, but this can pose a danger because lake water is dark and the floor has different depths, as well as rocks beneath the surface.

For this reason, never dive into a lake head first.  Always jump feet first, and it’s a good idea to know how deep the water is before going in.

Boat Safety

It’s important to obey the law in and around boats as well.  Alabama law states

minors under the age of 16 must wear a life jacket when on a boat.  This law went into effect in 2009 and replaces an older law that required children ages 12 and under to wear a life vest.

In addition, the law states that everyone over the age of 16 must have a life jacket readily accessible and available on any kind of vessel.

Also, make sure the engine and propeller are turned off before getting in and out of a boat. Children should not be operating a boat or Jet Ski at any time.

These other tips will help to keep your family safe on the lake this summer:

  • Don’t let kids swim without adult supervision — lakes or ponds might be shallow near the bank, but increase in depth sharply farther out from shore.
  • Ponds and lakes may hide jagged rocks, broken glass, or trash.
  • Make sure kids wear foot protection; even in the water, they should wear aqua socks or water shoes.
  • Watch out for weeds and grass that could entangle a leg or arm.
  • Most boating accidents, particularly among teens, are related to alcohol. When you and your family are boating, assign a designated driver who won’t drink. Be sure teens know about the dangers of alcohol, on and off the water.

By following these tips, you’ll ensure your trips to the lake are enjoyable and safe for your entire family.