It’s no secret that Tennessee is having one of the hottest summers we have had in a while. When it is this hot, there is little relief, but some choose local water ways as a means of cooling off.
With an increase in incidents involving kayaks, Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue and LaVergne Fire Department have partnered to offer water safety information.
“Many use kayaks for fishing, exercising, and often times just to enjoy the outdoors,” said LaVergne Fire Department Assistant Chief Chris Clark. “Some are experienced,” he added, “but the recreational activity is growing in interest, and more and more inexperienced kayakers are taking to the water.”
“Whether experienced or not, there are some important tips we would like to offer kayakers--and others who participate in water activities in general--,” said Fire Rescue Chief Mark Foulks.
The next time you head out on the water, consider the following safety tips:
• Never forget your U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket! This is the law.
• Waterproof your phone. Many inexpensive protective phone cases are available. If you do not have a phone case, try a plastic seal-tight bag, such as a “Ziploc.”. This is also a good place for a wallet and flashlight.
• Tell a family member or a friend where you are going and when you plan to return. "Plan your paddling and paddle your plan."
• Always pack a flashlight. Even if you have a plan accordingly, darkness could fall.
• When in the river and lakes, watch for motorized boats. Motorized boaters may find it difficult to see smaller kayaks.
• Be very careful in current. An inexperienced kayaker can quickly find themselves pinned against trees or rocks. Many times if kayaker cannot maneuver quickly, they can also find themselves in the water. If this is the case, swim to shore quickly. You can retrieve the kayak later or have another boater fetch the kayak for you. *Keep in mind that swimming in open waters is not the same as swimming in a pool. You need to be aware of uneven surfaces and river currents, especially after heavy rains and rising waters.
• Stay away from low-dams! Public Safety personnel refer them to "HUMAN WASHING MACHINES."
• Never dive into rivers and lakes, especially if you are unfamiliar with the depth or what might be hidden under the surface. There could be rocks, logs, and other sharp objects.
• As the summer ends and the fall begins, have extra clothes packed. As the water and air temps cool, hypothermia can become possible. Water and air temperature below 70 degrees can mean trouble if you find yourself wet in this climate for a period of time.
“Many kayakers do not think about having their cell phone with them,” said Chief Foulks, “but as we discovered in an incident in earlier July, it can prove to be very useful.”
On a hot July Saturday, Camille Jones, her husband, and her father-in-law decided to go kayaking on the Stones River. They put in at the Manson Pike Trailhead and had smooth sailing, until the current overtook Jones and pushed her kayak into a tree. It began to fill with water. Luckily, Jones was in a grove and able to stand while waiting for rescuers. Her husband, Scott, used his cell phone to “Google Map” her location for dispatchers, making it much easier for responders to locate her.
“We just want to spread the word that while kayaking and other water related activities can be enjoyable, there are safety concerns to be mindful of as well,” said Chief Clark.
If you would like more information on water safety, please contact Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Monday-Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm 615-893-1422 or LaVergne Fire Department at 615-427-1486.
“One common goal of all fire departments is to equip their communities with useful safety information,” said Foulks. “We want you to enjoy your summer activities, but we want you to enjoy them for years to come!”