Cherokee County Fire
& Emergency Services

Be Safe on the Water This Memorial Day Weekend

May 22, 2020

This Memorial Day weekend, many families will be spending time around swimming pools, lakes and rivers.  Before heading out Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services recommend reading through the following statistics and safety tips to assist in doing your part to prevent accidents.

Boating, kayaking and fishing are huge sports in Georgia, especially in Cherokee County. The Covid virus is keeping people in when the sun comes but the lakes and rivers in Cherokee county are seeing an early increase in public use. The fire department’s water rescue teams are also seeing an increase in responses.

Lake Allatoona, which is mostly in the southwestern part of Cherokee County, is one of the most popular lakes in the United States.  Because of this, Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services has several water rescue units around the lake that are ready to respond to emergency calls when needed.  Presently, the department is equipped with the latest protective equipment, tools, a dive rescue truck and 3 rescue boats. Plus, the department’s dive team is staffed with both full time and volunteer rescuers.

This year, the dive team has already been dispatched several times across the county to lakes and the Etowah River for accidents and help calls. Because of this, Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services shares some safety tips so our citizens will have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend.

Here are some water safety tips we want everyone to heed.

  1. Know your limits and wear your Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or life jacket.
  2. Swimming in open water (lakes, rivers, ponds and the ocean) is harder than swimming in a pool. Even though it may be hot outside, the water can still be very cold. So, when you jump in, the cold water can take your breath away and without a PFD/Life Jacket you may find yourself struggling to stay afloat. People tire faster and get into trouble more quickly. Plus, a person can go under water in a murky lake which makes it difficult for divers to locate victims, who could also be swept away by the currents. Please avoid swimming in rivers without a PFD because many good swimmers have gotten into trouble or drowned in currents that didn't seem to be moving that fast.
  3. Watch your family and children when visiting public beaches at the lake. No beaches in Cherokee County have lifeguards. Watch family members and bystanders closely because drowning is silent and it happens quickly.
  4. Do not swim alone, even if you think you are strong swimmer. Be cautious of sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers. People who can't swim or aren't strong swimmers have slipped into deeper water and drowned.
  5. When boating, don't overload the boat and wear a life jacket that fits. Many people have drowned when they fell overboard while fishing, hunting, or kayaking.
  6. Stay sober when on or in the water. Getting drunk or using illegal drugs and then wading into neck-deep water is a really bad idea, as reaction times and balance can be seriously thrown off. Operating a boat while drunk is as dangerous as drunk driving, and it leads to many deaths and preventable accidents every year. 
  7. Wear a life jacket that fits. Even the best water enthusiasts can misjudge changing water conditions when boating or swimming in open water. Be prepared at all times by wearing a life jacket – you'll never know when you'll be tossed into the water.
  8. Be sure your children wear a life jacket that fits them, and watch them closely around water because they can go under water quickly and quietly.

A number of water safety laws were passed to improve the use of life jackets and prevent drowning:

Children 12 years old and under must wear a lifejacket that fits them on moving boats in Georgia. Plus, they must wear a life jacket at ALL times while on the boat

And, recreational boats MUST carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard. The life jacket must be available and accessible. This is a nationwide Coast Guard rule.

Be prepared by making a float plan and let family know about it, too. Check river or stream conditions by contacting the United States Geological Survey or River guides online. Know where you are at all times on the rivers, use an app like the USNG, or Find Me SAR or Advensa to pinpoint your location by GPS, they are free apps.

Take life jackets, a rescue device, a cell phone, and someone who knows CPR when you are out on the water. Boaters should obtain their Boater Education Card and safety training even if you have boated for years.

Parents must tell their children about the dangers of open water at rivers, lakes, and beaches. Know where your child is, who they are with, and when they are expected home. Parents are powerful role models – if you wear a life jacket, it's more likely your children will too.

Learn more about water safety and drowning prevention from the Safe Kids Cherokee County website at www.safekidscherokee.org. You can also get additional information from the American Red Cross or the U. S. Corp of Engineers at www.pleasewearit.com.

Prevention and planning is the key to having a safe day on the water.

Have a Happy Memorial Day Weekend, but more importantly, Stay Safe!

 

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Water Rescue Members with the Dive Team Truck and one of the rescue boats are (left to right) Justin Libby, Chance Huffschmidt, Engle May, John Bennett, Matt Hickey and Brad McDonald.
Water Rescue Members with the Dive Team Truck and one of the rescue boats are (left to right) Justin Libby, Chance Huffschmidt, Engle May, John Bennett, Matt Hickey and Brad McDonald. (click image for slideshow)
Members of the Cherokee County Water Rescue Team urge everyone to be safe this Memorial Day Weekend.
Members of the Cherokee County Water Rescue Team urge everyone to be safe this Memorial Day Weekend.