First Responders Urge Safety on the Water this Summer

Responders are emphasizing wearing a lifejacket any time you are on the water.
Twenty-five people died on the water in the area last year.
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As the weather heats up and more people take to the water, first responders urge you to keep safety top of mind.

“The summer is coming, “said Capt. Jackie Gilmore with Charlotte Fire. “Memorial Day is coming as well. We want to make sure everyone is safe while enjoying the lake.”

There were 25 deaths on area lakes last year, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

“This time of the year, we start seeing a dramatic increase in injuries and accidents on the lake,” said Don Shue with Medic. “We respond to many boat accidents, jet ski accidents, drownings, and medical emergencies on the lake.”

Officials say the root causes of many of the injuries and accidents run the gamut, including drivers that haven’t been trained, boats with too many people aboard, and inexperienced younger drivers.

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First responders who patrol the lake emphasize the need for life jackets, saying not only do you need to have enough life jackets for people on board, but you have to use them.

“You might be a great swimmer,” said Richard Bellina with Charlotte Fire, “But if you have a medical emergency and go in the water [without a jacket], that’s it. That’s where we have a lot of issues.”

Divers with Charlotte Fire point out that humans lose body heat 25 times faster in water, adding to the danger.

When asked what contributes to a majority of the emergencies on the lake, Bellina points to alcohol. He says even skilled swimmers can find themselves in a dangerous predicament when under the influence.

Responding agencies on the water have a series of technological advances that range from sonar that can read the lake floor to an underwater roving robot that can grab someone in a recovery effort. But they emphasize that simply obeying the rules goes a long way.

“You have to respect the water because the water doesn’t respect anybody,” said Bellina.

CMPD says this year they will be particularly focused on spotting and educating inexperienced drivers, especially with more people moving into the area, as well as boat rental apps and websites that put untrained drivers at the wheel.

Here are tips to keep in mind this summer

  • Have enough life jackets for everyone on board, and wear them
  • Make sure the driver of the vessel is trained
  • Don’t have more passengers than the vessel is supposed to carry
  • Pay attention to weather
  • Be mindful of alcohol intake
  • In the case of an emergency, know your location, pay attention to landmarks
  • Dispatch can also track your location via the GPS on your smartphone, so be sure to have you Location Services switched on
  • Don’t hang up until dispatch clears you to do so, or until first responders arrive
  • Remember jet skis are not supposed to be on the water at night

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