The death of a 25-year-old Delaware man in the Susquehanna River this weekend brings the total water-related casualties in Maryland this year to 12 – double that of this time in 2012. Governor Martin O’Malley and law enforcement officials are urging everyone to help put a stop to this disturbing trend, protecting themselves and their loved ones by taking the necessary safety precautions in and around the water.
“One month ago we issued a plea for citizens and visitors to make personal safety a top priority while enjoying our State’s waterways, sadly since then six more lives have been lost to drowning,” said Governor O’Malley. “One day on the water, one minor misstep, one moment or lapse in judgment can lead to loss of life. Some of these victims were avid swimmers and athletes, clearly demonstrating that no one is immune to a swift current, large wave or unexpected mishap. We urge you to guard your life, and guard the lives of your loved ones by being smart and safe on the water.”
The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) urges all swimmers and boaters to develop a precautionary safety and rescue plan before heading out, keep a close watch on children and non-swimmers, wear a lifejacket and have flotation devices on hand.
“While last year the State had 11 boating deaths – under the 10-year average of 13 – in 2011, two dozen died on Maryland waterways,” said NRP Colonel George Johnson IV. “If we do not act now, we are in danger of seeing the same outcome as 2011.”
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drowning is the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the United States. On average, 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Nationwide, approximately 75 to 80 percent of boating deaths are due to drowning, many of which could have been prevented with the use of a life jacket.
NRP is also continuing to aggressively target those boating in a reckless or negligent manner and/or under the influence of alcohol. The maximum penalty for operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail for the first offense.
“Although the Maryland Natural Resources Police and its partner agencies work tirelessly to educate people about this issue, we continue to see casualties on our waterways that may have been prevented by better planning and precautionary measures,” said Colonel Johnson. “We are again asking everyone to research your activity and put safety first when heading outdoors.”
NRP reminds boaters and swimmers to:
- Wear a life jacket and have a flotation rescue device handy when out on the water. Quite simply, they save lives. All children under the age of 13 are required to wear a certified life jacket aboard a boat less than 21 feet long;
- Swim near a lifeguard. According to U.S. Lifesaving Association 10-year statistics, the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times greater than drowning at a beach with lifeguards;
- Never boat or swim alone, or while impaired. The sun, wind and water can cause fatigue in boaters and swimmers. Alcohol use magnifies this fatigue, impairs judgment and can lead to accidents and death. Boat and swim safe, smart and sober;
- Check weather and tides before heading out. Anticipate changes and bring all craft ashore when rough weather threatens. Wait at least 30 minutes before resuming activities after the last incidence of thunder or lightning;
- Don’t fight the current. If caught in a rip tide, don’t challenge it by trying to swim directly to shore. Most rip currents are narrow and short, so swim parallel to the shoreline to break free, and then to shore;
- Pay special attention to small children and always use safety devices on children or other individuals who cannot swim;
- Obey all warning signs that alert swimmers to dangers and be aware of any surrounding signs or markers that indicate current water conditions; and
- Carry a cell phone or have other ways of contacting emergency personnel if a situation arises.
If an emergency occurs, immediately call 911 and remember to Reach, Throw, Row and Go:
REACH the person in trouble by extending a releasable item, such as a pole, line or rope to pull them to safety, but not by hand as the rescuer could quickly become another victim.
THROW an object that floats to the victim if they are unreachable. A life ring, lifejacket, cooler or plastic jug are suitable floating objects that can keep a troubled swimmer afloat until rescues arrive.
ROW to the victim, using a canoe or any other safe watercraft. The rescuer must wear a life jacket. Once the victim is nearby, a rope or paddle should be extended and used to tow the victim to shore if possible.
GO find help or yell to get other people’s attention and have someone call 911.
For more information on Maryland Boating Safety visit dnr.maryland.gov/boating/safety.
Logo courtesy Maryland Department of Natural Resources