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OUR VIEW: Be safe on the water

Memorial Day is meant as a day to remember and honor those who served in the military who have passed on.

However, it seems like Memorial Day usually brings upon the images of drownings or accidents on the water.

With the added stress of COVID-19 still with us at the unofficial start of summer, we offer some advice from Safe Kids NC and Stanly County Wildlife Enforcement Officer Darby Enoch.

The main thing is to be patient and be safe, Enoch says.

There will likely be many people on the lakes and waterways this weekend as people venture out after being in quarantine for months.

A life jacket is required for every passenger on board and anyone 12 and under must wear it at all times. This is key, Enoch says, because the majority of people who drown are not wearing a life jacket. He compares it to wearing a seatbelt in a car.

As for boating, Enoch says the majority of fatalities involve someone who did not have any boater safety training.

“North Carolina summers get pretty hot so it’s tempting for families to spend a lot of time near the water, which is a lot of fun but can also be very dangerous,” Insurance Commissioner and Safe Kids NC Chairman Mike Causey Commissioner Causey said. “We want parents and caregivers to be particularly cautious and take steps to avoid any potential tragedies in swimming pools and other bodies of water.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14, and it is the leading cause of unintentional death in ages 1 to 4.

Safe Kids Worldwide has released the following information highlighting the dangers of childhood drowning, with a specific focus on incidents that occur in lakes, rivers, oceans, and other types of open water:

• Overall, an estimated 1,000 children drown in a single year, 70 percent of them between May and August.

• An additional 7,000 children end up in the emergency room because of a drowning scare. That means a minimum of 150 families a week are impacted by a tragic or frightening event.

• Most often those drownings take place in open water. A 10-year-old, for example, is three times more likely to drown in open water than in a pool. Older teens are more than eight times more likely to die as a result of an open water drowning than a pool drowning.

• Boys are at greatest risk: Eight in 10 open water drowning victims are males.
Safe Kids North Carolina reminds parents and caregivers to take these precautions around pools and open water:

• Always watch children and never leave them unattended.

• Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings.

• Have a charged phone nearby at all times.

• Know how to perform CPR on children and adults.

• Understand the basics of lifesaving so you can assist in an emergency.

• Install a fence at least four feet high around the perimeter of the pool or spa.

• Use self-closing and self-latching gates.

• Ensure all pools and spas have compliant drain covers. Install an alarm on the door leading from the house to the pool.

• Pay attention to the warning flags at the beach that indicate the possibility of rip currents.

• Teach children what to do if caught in a rip current. That is, stay calm, don’t fight the current, when free of the current, escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. If at any time you are unable to reach the shore, draw attention to yourself and call for help.

For more detailed information about water safety, go to www.safekids.org/watersafety or contact Safe Kids NC Director Shannon Bullock at Shannon.bullock@ncdoi.gov.

For any non-emergency violations, contact the NCWRC Enforcement Division at 1-800-662-7137 or contact the Stanly County Wildlife Enforcement Officer Darby Enoch at 910-975-2972.

Enoch also points boaters to the following websites for additional information:

https://www.ncwildlife.org/Law-Enforcement/On-the-Road-On-the-Water-Dont-Drink-and-Drive

https://www.ncwildlife.org/Boating/Marina-Resources/Boating-Education-Courses

https://www.ncwildlife.org/Boating/Laws-Safety/Personal-Watercraft-Law