According to a recent Oregonian article there have been three instances of water-related fatalities in Oregon in just the last few weeks. With the long holiday weekend upon us, that makes this an especially important moment to remind everyone of essential safety precautions, especially when it comes to preventing injuries to children.
In an article this week the newspaper noted that “authorities suspended their search… for a missing swimmer who’s presumed drowned at Three Pools, a popular swimming hole in Marion County. A man who jumped into the North Umpqua River in Douglas County is also presumed drowned. And a Portland man is presumed drowned after he jumped into the Clackamas River.” It goes on to note that 21 “people drowned in public, natural waterbodies in Oregon and southwest Washington last summer.”
Memorial Day weekend will bring even more people to the water, and potentially expose them to a wide variety of dangers, but the good news is that many of these can be minimized through a few basic, common sense precautions. Among the easiest – and most important – is ensuring that everyone in a boat, canoe or kayak is wearing a life jacket. Nearly a year ago I used this space to publicize the Aaron Peters Water Safety Fund, a non-profit dedicated to keeping everyone, but especially kids, safe when they are on the water. The fund, as its website explains, “is designed to help aid in building kiosks for life jackets” with the goal of preventing drownings in high-risk areas. Life jackets can be borrowed from APWSF kiosks for free. Last summer the fund exceeded its initial goals by setting up kiosks in eight locations around the state in just a few months. The link below offers both a complete list of the current kiosks and more information on the fund and it’s important work.
A quick look at the website of SafeKids, an organization that regular readers will know I have long supported, reinforces the importance of life jackets. “In 2013, 77 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket,” the organization’s website notes. Beyond wearing life jackets, and ensuring that they fit properly (“Have the child make a ‘touchdown’ signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits the child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.”), SafeKids emphasizes the importance of avoiding alcohol use while boating and reminds parents to be aware of the risk of hypothermia, especially for small children.
Both SafeKids and The Oregonian also go out of their way to remind parents that swimming in open water or a river is very different from swimming in a pool. The newspaper article linked below includes a very useful graphic illustrating the dangers peculiar to river swimming – such as shock – that can set in because the water temperature is often much lower just a few inches below the surface. It is also important to be aware of the possibility of encountering trees, rocks or other debris that may not be easily visible and which can cause severe injuries.
As an Oregon lawyer I am not trying to scare anyone away from a fun holiday weekend with this post. Rather, my goal is to remind everyone that taking a few basic precautions can prevent injuries to children and other potential tragedies. A few minutes spent looking at the links below can save hours or months of heartache and medical bills.