Whether boating for leisure, recreation, exercise or sport, Northwestern Oklahoma’s lakes can be enjoyed with the whole family.

“With the COVID-19 situation, we expect area lakes to be very busy this summer, as it is a safe way to enjoy time outdoors with friends and family,” Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer said. “Keep it safe for everyone by adhering to a few simple tips.”

While accidents do happen, over 80 percent of boating fatalities could have been saved simply using life jackets, estimates the U.S. Coast Guard.

“As a reminder, remember to always wear a life jacket.” Lehenbauer  said. “Personal flotation devices (PFD's) are required on a boat, at a minimum, for those 12 and under, and those being towed on skis or other devices.”

A PFD is required onboard for every person present on a boat, according to Lehenbauer.

“Life jackets for everyone onboard is the most important thing,” Oklahoma Wildlife Department District Chief Mark Reichenberger said. “In addition to PFD’s a rescue throw is also nice to have onboard.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, human error remains the leading cause of boating accidents. Learning the rules, regulations and safe operation of a power, sale or human-propelled vessel is important.

“All boats are required to have at least one fire extinguisher onboard,” Lehenbauer said. “If an unexpected emergency does arise, make sure you have a cell phone in a ziplock or otherwise waterproof bag onboard, so that you can quickly notify 9-1-1 and get assistance.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also suggests having an oar, first-aid kit, paddle, and a whistle on the boat.

“Make sure someone sober is driving. More than a few drinks consumed in an hour's time could render you too impaired to drive,” Lehenbauer stressed. “Remember, everything that happens on your boat is ultimately your responsibility.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there is no safe threshold for drinking and operating a boat.

“Save the “spirits” for later when you are at camp,” Reichenberger said.

In discussing safety Reichenberger encouraged staying calm if an accident does happen.

“The absolute worst thing you can do in any crisis situation is panic,” Reichenberger said. “Work through the problem as calmly as is possible.”

Of course, one of the best ways to be able to calmly handle any situation is to be well informed. It's always a great idea to brush up on current water safety tips, according to TravelOK.com.

To help children learn water and boating safety, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has some printable activities pages available at Bobber.info with a yellow dog named Bobber and his friends.

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