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August 29, 2013

NRP Urges Safety over Labor Day Weekend

by Martha

The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) reminds citizens to make safety a priority during the last holiday weekend of the summer. 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. As in the past, officers will be stepping up enforcement in an effort to maintain safe parks and waterways.

“Labor Day is one of the busiest weekends for our State and our officers, as people head out on the boat, visit our State’s parks and campgrounds, gear up for hunting season, and enjoy all of the great recreation Maryland has to offer,” said Colonel George Johnson IV. “We urge everyone to plan ahead and be extra vigilant this weekend while having fun on our busy waterways, parks and beaches. We all need to work together to ensure there are no more water related casualties this summer.”

NRP has responded to 12 drowning deaths so far this year ─ nearly  double that of this time in 2012. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, of the 2012 nationwide fatal boating accidents where drowning was the cause of death, 85 percent were reported as not wearing a life jacket. Additionally, drowning is the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with an average of 10 people dying from unintentional drowning every day. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious and exhausted in the water.

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.

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.

With cooler weather signaling a renewed interest in park recreation during the fall, NRP reminds State Park and campground visitors to obey the law and be courteous to others. Hikers and campers should inform friends or relatives of their plans before they depart, including destination and trip length in case they do not return on time.

September is the start of hunting ─ including dove, early resident goose, squirrel and deer ─ seasons in Maryland. NRP reminds hunters to always think about safety before entering the field, pointing their weapon in a safe direction and identifying their target before pulling the trigger. First time hunters are reminded of the requirement to complete a hunter safety course before going out. Hunters should carefully inspect all tree-stands and always wear a full-body safety harness while climbing in or out and while in the stand. DNR strongly recommends using a sliding knot, commonly known as a prussic knot, attached to a line that is secured above the stand that allows the hunter to be safely tethered to the tree as soon as they leave the ground. Visit the DNR website to see more information on tree-stand safety and view a detailed video.

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