water safety and drowning preventionMatthew Galloway, Caribou County Sheriff’s Office

It’s a great time of year. Winter is losing its grasp and spring is just around the corner. As we put our spring “to-do” lists together, it’s fun to include planning spring and summer fun. Vacations, camping, fishing trips and family barbecues are some of those things.

In Eastern Idaho, one of our favorite pastimes is enjoying the many lakes, rivers and reservoirs. From Palisades to Bear Lake, Devil’s Creek to the Oneida Narrows, American Falls to the Blackfoot, if you want to spend time on the water there is a place to go. However, weather and water conditions can rapidly change, which is why we all need to prepare ourselves before hitting the water.

One of the most important things you can do when planning a trip is getting the whole family involved. Your kids are always learning, and good or bad, they pick up your habits and will emulate them their whole lives. So, involving your kids with planning and safety preparations is a great way to set them up for success.

When heading out on the water, take a few minutes to plan your activity, it will really help in an emergency. Make sure you know who is in your group, where you are leaving from and returning to, how long you will be gone, and then relay that information to a family friend or neighbor. This can greatly help law enforcement if something were to go wrong.

Another easy step is to take time beforehand to inspect your watercraft before you leave home. It doesn’t matter if it is a float tube or a jet boat. Everything wears out eventually. Having the watercraft in good repair can make a huge difference. All motorized vessels need to be registered at your DMV, and most human-powered vessels need to have an Idaho Invasive Species sticker purchased and placed on it.

It’s also a good idea to take a few minutes to inspect your mandatory safety equipment. Fire extinguishers, sound producing devices, working ventilation blowers, functioning spark arresters and lights after dark are important and required on motorized vessels.

Life jackets and other flotation devices are also required on Idaho waterways. Have a properly fitted life jacket or flotation device for every person. Almost all drownings in Idaho that have occurred in recent years could have been prevented if the person had been wearing a life jacket. Teach your kids the importance of wearing one and set a good example for them by always wearing yours.

There are also many people who don’t realize that there are “rules of the road” for operating a vessel on water. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation developed the Boat Idaho instruction class, and most local sheriff’s offices and IDPR offices provide this free training during the spring and summer.

For more information on Boat Idaho classes or information about Idaho laws regarding mandatory safety equipment and operating rules, contact your local sheriff’s office or go to IDPR’s website at parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.

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