It is getting warmer, which is always a good thing, but the spring also brings dangers – sometimes dangers that may not seem immediately obvious.
I’d like to focus today on water safety, a topic that regular readers will know I have addressed in the past. As a recent article in The Oregonian outlines the temptation to cool off in Oregon and Washington’s rivers at this time of year needs to be accompanied by some simple but important safety precautions.
“Entering cold water can cause swimmers to gasp, inhale water and then go under,” the paper notes. “Currents can keep swimmers from reaching safety.” The key thing to remember is that even on a hot day the water can be very cold. This is something most of us intuitively understand when it comes to the ocean, but which can be easy to forget where rivers are concerned. It is especially important since rivers, with their fast-flowing currents and other obstacles such as rocks and trees, are often even more dangerous than swimming at the beach.
The SafeKids website has a very useful pages on both boating and swimming safety (see links below), and while their focus is on children much of they advice they offer applies to adults as well. The focus on life jackets is something that particularly bears repeating. As The Oregonian notes: “If you choose to swim, officials urge awareness of water temperatures and hazards, wearing life jackets and refraining from drinking alcohol. Swimmers should also keep an eye on children near the water, abide by posted rules, swim with others and be aware of their swimming skill.”
There has already been at least one drowning in Oregon this year. “A 24-year-old Klamath Falls man died while swimming in the Lewis River in northern Clark County… cold water was suspected to have contributed to his death,” the paper reports. According to data compiled by the newspaper there were 18 drownings in “public, natural waterbodies” in Oregon and Southwest Washington last year and 21 such deaths in 2016.
As an Oregon and Washington attorney who has long focused on child safety I urge everyone to take appropriate precautions when heading to the water this spring and summer. Many facilities offer life jackets that can be borrowed for free or at a nominal cost. Please use them. It is also important for parents to set a good example for their kids, both by using safety gear themselves and by acting responsibly when in or near the water.