FORT KNOX, Ky. – Summer months mean warm weather and opportunities for making memories on or in the water. However, there are important factors to consider before venturing out.
According to Fort Knox safety specialist Brian Wood, keeping safety in mind is key when enjoying water activities.
“I think the biggest message is to be prepared,” said Wood, “and know your situational awareness.”
When swimming, Wood said emergencies oftentimes arise because water goers don’t always stop to consider the types of hazards they may encounter.
“Regardless of it’s a pool or lake, but lakes and rivers especially, knowing the dangers that lurk underneath,” said Wood. “We don’t know what the current is, the depth, or the debris that may be under the water.”
Wood pointed out while even experienced swimmers need to remain mindful of any potential hazards, the need to be cautious is amplified more so when young children are in the water.
“It’s especially important for parents to supervise their children,” said Wood. “Even at waterparks and pools, parents have to be vigilant and watch their children at all times.”
There is also another potential danger for children when in or around the water, one Wood said can easily be avoided.
“Sometimes [children] may not want to put their lifejacket on, or put it on incorrectly,” said Wood.
He explained the importance of life jackets, especially when boating, is paramount.
“When you go boating on the waterways you’ve got to have your lifejackets on,” said Wood. “Even if people think they’re strong swimmers, there have been fatalities where they didn’t have one on.”
One other consideration boaters need to take is what is needed when operating any watercraft. While the state of Kentucky does not require boaters over the age of 18 to have taken a boater education exam, children ages 12-17 must have a valid Boater Education Card or be supervised by an adult or someone with a card to legally operate any vessel over 10 horsepower.
This is a different situation for anyone wishing to utilize the boats for rent from the Fort Knox Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program, according to Wood.
“For the state of Kentucky there isn’t a license requirement [for adults] however, if you’re going to rent a boat from the FMWR you have to take the U.S. Coast Guard boating course online,” said Wood. “It prints you out a certificate, so you need to have that to rent a boat from the organization.”
Wood said FMWR is not only an excellent resource for boat rentals, but for anything Soldiers and Families might need to enjoy a weekend on the water.
“They can rent everything from life jackets, to boats, to paddles; everything you need to go boating safely,” said Wood. “They’ll also walk you through everything about how their equipment works.”
A common misconception is that boating accidents mainly happen in rough conditions or because there weren’t life jackets on board. However, the USCG reports half of all recreational boating fatalities happen in calm water and in most cases, life jackets are stowed on board but not worn.
Wood pointed out another important factor that can contribute to accidents – one that could not only potentially lead to injuries, but also an arrest.
“When alcohol is involved with boating, it just compounds the issues that can occur and make it more dangerous,” said Wood. “Operating a vessel under the influence is against the law, so be sure to have a designated driver.”
Wood said the main things to adhere to when engaging in water activities are to make sure life jackets fit properly and are always worn, inspect all equipment first, and most importantly:
“Just be aware of the dangers that can be around you.”