Officials launch summertime water safety campaign

July 10, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

County mailers, signs remind public of rivers’ risk

Summer arrived last month, but despite balmier temperatures and abundant sunshine, King County rivers still run cold.

Revelers heading to the Raging River near Preston or the Cedar River south of Issaquah — and other local rivers — should exercise caution, and King County safety officials urged caution. Even a quick swim or a short jaunt on a raft can pose risks.

Officials from the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Public Health – Seattle & King County and the King County Sheriff’s Office joined forces to urge recreationalists to use common sense and follow safety tips.

Officials recommended for kayakers, boaters, rafters and other recreationalists to check conditions and scout rivers thoroughly for hazards before getting in the water.

In addition to the public awareness campaign, crews started installing signage reading “Warning, River is Dangerous” signs at more than a dozen popular riverside recreation areas countywide.

What to know

Before venturing into open water, King County health and safety officials remind river users to:

  • Wear a life jacket.
  • Not use judgment-impairing alcohol and drugs.
  • Keep children within reach, always watching them closely near and in water.
  • Choose safer swimming options with lifeguards present, such as a beach, lake or pool.
  • Know river conditions before getting in the water.

Find more information about river safety and drowning prevention on the King County river safety website, www.kingcounty.gov/riversafety.

“Rivers are dynamic systems, and they are always changing,” county Department of Natural Resources and Parks Director Christie True said in a statement. “Warm weather and cold water can be a dangerous combination, and we urge all river users to exercise a high degree of caution and awareness when recreating on any of King County’s beautiful rivers.”

Officials also sent a mailer to encourage recreationalists to use life jackets — also called personal flotation devices, or PFDs. The mailers contain other river safety information, including resources for affordable and discounted life jackets.

The county sent the mailer to more than 30,000 addresses within about a 1-mile radius of major river recreation areas.

The river safety campaign is funded by the county Office of Risk Management’s Loss Control Fund.

The campaign is the latest summertime safety effort from county agencies.

County leaders adopted a measure last year to require personal flotation devices for users along the Raging, Snoqualmie, Tolt, Cedar, Green, Skykomish and White rivers in unincorporated areas. The measure expired in October.

“We want you to have fun and also return home safely from river recreation, so please use caution and wear a PFD on the water,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for the county health agency, said in a statement. “If you want to swim, there are much safer places to be — visit a local pool or lifeguarded beach instead.”

In Issaquah, the city-run Julius Boehm Pool offers a safe destination for swimmers.

Lake Sammamish State Park includes beaches open to swimmers, but the area lacks lifeguards due to state budget cuts.

The last drowning at the park occurred in June 2010, as a 23-year-old Seattle man slipped into 50-degree water on a sunny afternoon.

Public Health – Seattle & King County documented six drownings throughout Lake Sammamish State Park in the decade between 1992 and 2002.

Rangers documented two drownings at the park in 2006. Rescuers pulled four near-drowning victims from the water between 2005 and 2008.

No swimmers drowned with lifeguards on duty, but some park goers drowned after the park had closed, or in other areas of the park.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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