A life jacket is a life saver

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

Some people have plenty of excuses why they don’t wear a life jacket when paddling or boating, but there’s not a single good reason.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Coast Guard:

• Drowning was reported as the cause of death in 79 percent of all boating fatalities.
• Approximately 86 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

Graphic of the Wear It life jacket

Life jacket excuses

I don’t need a lifejacket; I’m a good swimmer.
The fact is that two-thirds of drowning victims are good swimmers.

I don’t need to wear one in my kayak–only when I am in a big boat.
In a kayak or canoe you may run into low-hanging branches or submerged objects, which can cause you to turn over and fall in. You don’t want to be without a lifejacket if that happens.

I have life jackets on board the boat.
That’s nice, but have you ever tried to put a life jacket on as your boat capsizes or overturns? That’s like trying to put on your seatbelt during a car accident. 

Life jackets get in the way. They are too hot and too uncomfortable.
That’s not true anymore! Today, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. They are much more comfortable and light weight. There are even inflatable life jackets which offer a comfortable alternative to traditional life jackets. They provide range of motion and are cooler to wear in warmer weather.

Nothing is ever going to happen to me.
We hope not. Please don’t risk the pain and grief you would cause your family and friends because you were too stubborn/lazy/cool to #WearIt?

Graphic showing which life jacket is right for you

Life jacket tips
Keep these tips in mind when buying and using your life jacket.

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities. Read the label!
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause problems.
  • Check that your life jacket is in good condition, with no tears or holes.
  • If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets based on their weight. Life jackets meant for adult-sized people do not work for children. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”

Boating safety tips
Wearing a life jacket is one of the best ways to ensure a fun and safe day on the water. Here are a few others:

  • Check the weather, including the water temperature. Know the latest marine weather forecast prior to going out, and keep a regular check for changing conditions.
  • Dress properly. Always dress for the weather, wearing layers if cooler weather, and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet.
  • Always file a float plan. File a float plan with someone you trust that includes details about the trip, boat, persons, towing or trailer vehicle, communication equipment and emergency contacts. Find out more at floatplancentral.org.
  • Don’t drink while you boat. Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as a leading factor in boating-related deaths. Find out more at operationdrywater.org.

The Great Miami, Stillwater, and Mad rivers offer many paddling, rowing, and power boating opportunities. Our water trail maps take you to public access sites. And be sure to review the safety tips on the back of our maps.

A little preparation can go a long way in creating paddling adventures and memories.

National Safe Boating Week is May 22-28

Cold-water immersion a springtime danger, too

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

Many people think about the dangers of cold-water immersion when the temperatures begin to turn cooler in the fall. But springtime can create a false sense of security because while the air may be warm, the water may not be. And if you capsize, the “cold shock” can lead to drowning.

Cold Shock
Falling into cold water can cause your body to react in a few ways:

Gasping for breath and rapid breathing. Oftentimes when someone falls in a river or lake, the cold water can cause an involuntary gasping reflex, leading to a drowning emergency. It can also create rapid breathing and hyperventilation.

Heart and blood pressure problems. Cold water can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to spike, increasing the chance for heart failure or stroke in some people.

Cognitive impairment. The shock of the cold water can create panic for some. The fear and stress can keep you from thinking clearly and making good decisions. The longer you’re in the water, the greater the chance of hypothermia, which can further reduce your decision-making abilities.

Keep in mind that the water doesn’t have to be super cold to trigger cold shock. Gasping for a breath or rapid breathing from sudden immersion can be triggered by water as warm at 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be Prepared
Follow these other safety tips to protect yourself when paddling.

  • Always wear your life jacket.
  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperatures.
  • Wear a wet suit or dry suit if the air temperature is at or below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Always file a float plan with someone you trust.

Physical Incapacitation
Once you’ve been immersed in cold water for several minutes, you may have a loss of muscular control in your arms, hands, legs and feet. Losing the ability to use your hands and feet make self-rescue more challenging. Loss of muscular control could make it more difficult to keep your head above water. If you’re not wearing a life jacket, your chance of survival becomes minimal.

Hypothermia
Beyond the initial cold shock, after the first one to three minutes of immersion, a person’s body temperature will continue to drop. Hypothermia begins to set in at a body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, increasing the risk of drowning. Your body temperature can continue to drop even after you’re out of the water, so be sure to find a warm, dry place.

Wear It!
Want to give yourself a fighting chance in a cold-water immersion or any other emergency situation on the water? Wear your life jacket! It significantly increases your chances of survival.

Review our river maps and more safety tips

Giving the Stillwater River Some Love

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

If you haven’t visited the Stillwater River firsthand, it is time you did. The Stillwater River is a special place to fish, paddle, or just enjoy some beautiful scenery.

Ohio’s only National Water Trail and State Scenic River

Designated as both a National Water Trail and a State Scenic River, the Stillwater River and Greenville Creek system are the only river segments in Ohio that have been awarded both of these special distinctions.

Ohio’s scenic river program recognizes high quality natural streams and helps protect them for future generations. The National Park Service’s National Water Trail program recognizes rivers and streams with plentiful public access for river recreation. Together, that makes the Stillwater River one of the best Ohio has to offer.

Greenville Falls

Premier outdoor recreation 

The Stillwater River and its tributaries offer diverse recreation fun.

  • World-class fishing, including some of Ohio’s premier smallmouth bass habitat
  • 60+ miles of flatwater for beginning and intermediate paddlers
  • Beautiful riverside parks managed by Darke County Park District, Miami County Park District, and Five Rivers MetroParks
  • Fun nature education at Brukner Nature Center in Troy, and Aullwood Audubon in Dayton
  • Scenic waterfalls on Greenville Creek

Stay Safe

And anytime we talk about river adventures, we need to talk about river safety. A few small steps can ensure your next experience on the Stillwater River—or any river for that matter—is a fun and safe one.

  • Do not enter the water when river levels are high or water is moving fast. Most people underestimate the power of water.
  • Always wear a life jacket while paddling.

Use our Stillwater River water trail map to learn more about staying safe on the river.

She is putting on the most important piece of river gear. Always wear a life jacket when paddling the Stillwater River.

The health of the Stillwater River

So the Stillwater River offers exceptional river recreation. But what about the condition of the river?

When Ohio designated the Stillwater River as a Scenic River in 1975, it was considered to be in “excellent” or “good” condition. As with virtually every water body in the country, land uses in recent years threaten the water quality and condition of the habitat. Despite the challenges, the Ohio EPA reports that 52 percent of the Stillwater River and its major tributaries meet Ohio water quality standards.

One of the most common threats to the Stillwater River is nutrients. Nitrogen and phosphorus enter waterways when it rains, impacting water quality. Both are found in fertilizers, animal waste, sewage, and wastewater. These problems can be reduced by fencing livestock out of streams and rivers, better fertilizer management, properly maintaining septic systems, and improvements to wastewater treatment.

The Stillwater River and its tributaries have also been heavily impacted by physical, man-made changes. Removal of stream side forests can increase erosion of the stream banks. When the shape of the stream is changed from a natural, meandering shape to a straight channel, habitat is destroyed.

More than half of the Stillwater River and its tributaries meet Ohio water quality standards.

MCD and the Stillwater River

Keeping rivers healthy is a big part of MCD’s water stewardship efforts. We collaborate with schools, communities and local groups to protect the river. We:

  • Track nutrient and other pollutant levels in the Stillwater River.
  • Sponsor trash cleanups on the river.
  • Educate homeowners on proper maintenance of home sewage treatment systems.
  • Partner with communities that manage wastewater treatment to explore new approaches to wastewater management.

We’re working to keep the Stillwater River healthy for you, your family and generations to come. You can help with these simple water wise actions. Let’s give the Stillwater River some big love in return for all it gives us.

One simple act can lead to a safe summer on the water

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of watershed partnerships

The Great Miami, Stillwater, and Mad rivers offer many paddling, rowing, and power boating opportunities. Our water trail maps take you to public access sites and give you safety information. And one simple act can help you have a safe summer on the water.

Wear your life jacket!

 

It’s that simple. The facts are clear:

  • Four out of every five boating deaths in 2018 were due to drowning.
  • 84 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket.

Having a life jacket in your boat isn’t enough. You have to wear it. Accidents can happen much too fast to reach for a stowed life jacket, so WEAR IT!

As you prepare for the boating/paddling season remember to:

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities. Read the label!
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems.
  • Check that your life jacket is in good condition, with no tears or holes.
  • Life jackets meant for adult-sized people do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets based on their weight. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”

Modern life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange version. There are so many life jackets to choose from, there’s simply no excuse not to wear one. There are even life jackets that use inflatable technologies so you can remain cool and comfortable. Some will inflate automatically when immersed in water.

A good life jacket is critical to your safety. There are other steps to take as well. Before heading out for a day on the water, be sure to review the safety tips on the back of our maps.

COVID-19 considerations

COVID-19 is part of our lives for now and needs to be considered when boating, too. Maintain good hand washing and don’t go boating if someone in your household is sick. Be sure to review these tips for navigating social distancing  while boating and tips for cleaning and storing your life jacket.

National Safe Boating Week is May 16-22.
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