PRATT – The Fourth of July Holiday is popular with Kansas state park patrons. It’s hot, and being outdoors close to the water draws thousands. Most parks have designated swimming beaches, buoyed for safety, but there are no lifeguards. Swimmers must obey safety rules and use common sense to prevent tragedy from marring what should be a fun, relaxing holiday at the park.
One important rule for parents is to never let young children out of sight. It’s also a good idea to strap young ones into well-fitted life jackets. It can only take a moment on a crowded beach to lose track of an active toddler.
Swimmers should pay attention to weather conditions. A typical summer thunderstorm can pop up quickly, bringing high wind, lightning, and heavy rain. Watch the weather forecasts and the skies. Even on a sunny day, the weather can be an issue. Recently, swimmers floating on air mattresses had to be rescued at El Dorado Lake when high winds and rough water pushed them away from the beach. The high waves prevented them from swimming back to shore.
For holiday boaters, similar precautions must be followed; stay informed of weather forecasts, be aware of wave and wind velocities, and operate at safe and practical speeds for conditions. Boating laws require children 12 and younger to wear properly-fitting life jackets while on board. There must be a life jacket readily accessible for everyone on board, and it’s a good idea for everyone to wear one.
For many boaters, drinking alcohol and boating go together, but alcohol is a factor in a majority of serious boating accidents. Boaters should also know that operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater is illegal and boating officers enforce boating under the influence (BUI) laws just as state troopers enforce DUI laws on highways. Sun, wave action and heat serve only to exacerbate the effects of alcohol on the body. Always have a designated boat operator who refrains from drinking alcohol.
Swimming and boating on Kansas reservoirs are very safe activities when you consider the number of accidents and fatalities compared to the millions of water recreation days recorded each year. However, by following a few easy, common sense rules and regulations, water recreation can be safer. Make your Fourth of July Holiday safe and fun this year.