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How to stay safe while on the water

As more Wisconsinites head to the river or lakes this summer, the Wisconsin department of Natural Resources is reminding people to keep safety in mind.
As more Wisconsinites head to the river or lakes this summer, the Wisconsin department of Natural Resources is reminding people to keep safety in mind.(WEAU)
Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 6:32 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - As more Wisconsinites head to the river or lakes this summer, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is reminding people to keep safety in mind.

The DNR says the number of drownings on Wisconsin lakes and rivers this year have surpassed last years. They say if your plans involve enjoying some Wisconsin waterways, to make sure you have a life jacket on. If you’re not careful, a fun day on the water can become dangerous, sometimes even deadly. According to Fairfax Pool program and facility supervisor Chad Duerkop, life jackets can save your life.

As more Wisconsinites head to the river or lakes this summer, the Wisconsin department of Natural Resources is reminding people to keep safety in mind.
As more Wisconsinites head to the river or lakes this summer, the Wisconsin department of Natural Resources is reminding people to keep safety in mind.(WEAU)

“If you’re not a strong swimmer and you are going and swimming, even in a designated swim area, you should wear a life jacket,” he says.

With more Wisconsinites out on Wisconsin waterways, DNR Recreation Warden Jason Roberts says a lifesaving tool is often forgotten.

“I was just on an incident last week where an individual was swimming, the boat drifted away, the people on the boat couldn’t get it started, he wasn’t able to swim to the boat and he drowned,” Roberts says. “If he would’ve been wearing a life jacket, like the kids were, he would’ve been saved.”

In an effort to keep Wisconsinites safe, the Eau Claire Parks, Recreation and Forestry department is giving away free life jackets. Duerkop says they gave away all 170 life jackets that were donated.

“Really the only things that are available is half moon beach or maybe river or a lake and none of those are life guarded in this area,” Duerkop says. “Having a life jacket on increases safety and your chance of living when you’re having a fun day on the water.

Last year, there were nine deaths related to boating activity in Wisconsin. So far this year, the DNR says Wisconsin has had 14 deaths. Of those 14, nine people were not wearing life jackets and one was wearing it incorrectly. Roberts says just having a life jacket or personal flotation device on is not enough, it is important to make sure it fits properly.

“If someone can pull on the shoulder of your PFD and it goes above your nose or above your head, that’s a good indication of either it isn’t strapped down tight enough or it is too big for you,” Roberts says.

He says having a life jacket on while in the water is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself safe, even if you are a strong swimmer.

“If you don’t know how to swim, you do one of two things,” he says. “Either you don’t jump in the water or you put a life jacket on. The people that drown are the people that know how to swim.”

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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