Follow these tips to stay safe at the lake this Fourth of July

Follow these tips to stay safe at the lake this Fourth of July
Boating on one of Alabama's lakes is a great way to spend the Fourth, but only if everybody stays safe. (File)

The Fourth of July is almost here, and for many Alabamians that means heading to the lake.

Your safety and that of others should be on your mind, whether you’re boating, swimming or just out in the heat. Check out the tips below to help make your lake stay as safe as possible.

Boating safety

  • Check your boat. Many people put their boats in the water without first checking belts, fluids and motors, and end up having to be towed in. Make sure your boat is in good working order before taking it out for the first time. Often, boaters take their safety equipment out of the boat for the winter. Make sure all required equipment is put on the boat and is in good working order.
  • Make sure all life jackets are in good working order. All straps, buckles and zippers need to be operational, and the life jackets cannot have any rips or tears.
  • Be aware of what other boaters are doing around you. Even if you have the right of way, if another boater doesn’t give way to your vessel, you give way. Especially keep an eye out for people on personal watercraft. Being smaller, they tend to get overlooked by other boaters.
  • Just like on the highway, drinking and operating a boat is against the law. In many ways, it can be even more dangerous. Boaters tend to get a condition called boater’s fatigue, caused by the glare of the sun, action of the waves and general tiredness, toward the end of the day. Adding alcohol to this can create a deadly combination.
  • Keep an eye on weather. Storms can come up quickly, especially in the summer, so keep an eye to the sky. Watch for temperature changes, shifts in wind patterns and changes in cloud formations. All these can signal storms moving in. If caught in a storm, try to get to the nearest safe shelter. If you have to ride the storm out on the water, have everyone put on a life jacket and get as close to the boat’s centerline as possible, keep the bow of the boat to the wind and ride the waves at a 45-degree angle.

(Information provided by Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.)

Pool and water safety

  • Anywhere there is water, there is a danger of drowning. Never swim alone.
  • An adult must always watch children closely. This means no reading, talking on the phone or texting.
  • An adult should be within arm’s reach of infants, toddlers and weaker swimmers.
  • Drowning usually occurs quickly and silently.
  • Enter shallow water feet first. It is never OK to dive into water less than 9 feet deep.

Life jackets

To meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a boat must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard. Life jackets must be:

  • Sized to fit and in good condition (no rips, tears or missing parts).
  • U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
  • Worn by children younger than 8 years old.
  • Worn by anyone on a personal watercraft or being towed on skis or a tube.
  • Accessible (not stored in a locker or closed compartment).

(Information provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.)

All children younger than 8 must wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets while boating, but it’s a good idea for everybody. (File)

Heat safety

  • Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has prescribed water pills, ask your doctor how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Limit the amount of time spent outside during these hours.
  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, 20 minutes before going.
  • Two or more sunburns before age 18 double one’s risk of later developing melanoma.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

For more safety tips, download the Alabama Power Lake Safety Resource guide at www.apcshorelines.com.

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