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Recreational Water Safety

As soon as the weather warms up in Western Washington, we’re ready to jump in a lake, take a swim in the Puget Sound, lazily float down a river. Before you race out the front door, keep in mind these water safety tips so you don’t have a bummer summer.


Know the Water

  • Water that is warm on the surface may be much colder below. Use caution when swimming and always supervise young children playing in or near the water.

  • Always enter shallow and unknown water feet first.

  • Watch for uneven surfaces, rivers currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.

  • Cold water can kill even on hot summer days. Stay close to shore and rest if you are cold or tired.

  • Obey all safety signs and warning flags.


Know Your Limits

  • It is always best to swim with others. Don’t go alone!

  • Swimming in open water (lakes, rivers, ponds, Puget Sound, and the ocean) is harder than in a pool. People tire faster and get into trouble more quickly. A person can go underwater in a murky lake, making them hard to find, or be swept away by a current.

  • Swim in a life-guarded area, especially if you are not a strong swimmer.

  • Be cautious of sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers.

  • When boating, don't overload the boat and wear an appropriately sized life jacket.

  • Stay sober when on or in the water. Alcohol and other drugs increase the effects of weather, temperature, and wave action.


Wear a Life Jacket

  • Even the best water enthusiasts can misjudge changing water conditions when boating or swimming in open water. Be prepared at all times by wearing a life jacket.

  • Have children wear a life jacket that fits them and watch them closely around water – they can go under quickly and quietly. When should they wear them? More often than you might think. o   When on a boat, raft, paddle board, inner tube or other watersports equipment. o   When swimming in open water like a lake, river or the ocean. o   When playing in or near the water and on docks (for younger children).

  • Wear a life jacket when boating or fishing, even if you don’t intend to enter the water. Recreational boats must carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard. The life jacket must be available and accessible at all times.

What to Look For in a Life Jacket

  • Coast Guard approval label.

  • A snug fit. With the life jacket on, raise arms over head. Look to the left and right; the chest part of the jacket shouldn’t hit the chin.

  • Head support for younger children. A well-designed life jacket will support the child’s head when they are in the water.

  • A strap between the legs for younger children will help keep the life jacket on the child.

  • Appropriate type of activity and water conditions. Check the label or ask the salesperson for help.

  • Comfort, appearance and bright colors. This is especially important to teens who may be less

  • likely to want to wear a life jacket. Bright colors make it easier to see a person in the water.


Life Jacket Coupon
Download PDF • 319KB

Be Prepared

  • Learn to swim! If you don’t know how to swim well, find someone to teach you. Learn to float and to tread water for at least 10 minutes. Make sure your child learns to swim. Upgrade their swimming skills each year.

  • Teach your children about the dangers of open water at rivers, lakes, and beaches. Know where your child is, who they are with, and when they are expected home.

  • Take life jackets, a rescue device, a cell phone, and someone who knows CPR/First Aid when you are out on the water.

  • Check beach advisories before you go swimming.

  • Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger. Reach out to someone in trouble in the water only while holding onto something stable. If you can’t reach them, throw them something that floats.

  • Obtain your Boater Education Card from Washington State Parks

  • ·Check river or stream conditions by contacting the United States Geological Survey at 253-428-3600 ext. 2635.


Bring Bobber with you on your water adventures!

Download PDF • 3.02MB

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