Alaska is surrounded by water on three of her big glorious borders. Water safety is a huge priority when it comes to being on, in or near the many lakes, rivers and bays Alaska has to offer. From frigid temperatures to unpredictable weather and water conditions, being aware of these water safety tips could be very helpful for your family this summer.
- Never go alone, always have a plan: Boating or swimming alone is never a good idea. Having someone else with you while on the water is good because if you find yourself in an emergency, you can work together to get home safely. For example, if one person begins to have trouble in the water, the other can either help if they are lifeguard certified or can get help; whereas someone boating or swimming alone may encounter difficulty and not be able to call for help. Be sure to always tell someone who isn’t going on the trip where you are going and when you plan to be back. This is in case you end up stranded, someone at home knows to send for help when you don’t arrive safely home at your predetermined time.
- Survival Gear is Crucial: Having a life jacket that fits for every individual going on or in the water is very important. The water conditions are cold and unpredictable so having your life jackets on for every boat ride could save the lives of anyone on board in the event of an emergency. In addition to life jackets, it is good to be prepared with a first aid kit, extra water and other survival supplies, such as flares and rain gear.
- Check the weather: Always check the current and predicted weather conditions not only for land but for the water as well. It is not good enough to look outside or look at the water and determine it is a good day to go kayaking. Look at the USGS website and the National Weather Service website for current and forecasted weather and water conditions. While you might have a plan for a kayaking day or lake swimming day, it may not be possible or safe due to current conditions; so always look before you go to avoid putting yourself into a dangerous situation.
- Watch for wildlife: Alaska is filled with wildlife, and they love our plentiful freshwater supplies as well. When boating in a river or fishing on the bank, always watch for curious or hungry bears and moose swimming or grazing near by. The bears can be territorial over riverbanks and spots around lakes as it may provide them not only water but plenty of food too. Respect the bear and give it space by moving to a different spot when you spot one nearby. Moose often have one or two babies following them around in the summer. They will become aggressive if you seem threatening or manage to find yourself in between a mother moose and her young. Always be watching, listening, and alert that while the waterways may serve as fun for you, they are crucial homes to the wildlife.
- Know how to swim: In addition to Alaska having a lot of bodies of water around and in it, the world itself is made up of 75% water, making it pretty important for everyone to know how to swim before going in or on water. To make your family outing enjoyable and safe, make sure everyone in the family is confident in their swimming abilities. In addition to swimming classes, many water safety classes are offered around Alaska, teaching its residents about the various types of emergencies and methods of survival. Knowing how to swim and what to do in a water-related emergency is so important for a safe, fun family boating trip or swim in the lake.
For more information on boating safety in Alaska and to learn about educational resources for your children, visit the Alaska Department for Natural Resources Website on boating safety.