When we think of Lake George as a source for recreation, fun, and beauty, Lake George is one of the friendliest lakes in the world. But when we reflect back on some of our tragic drowning accidents in recent years, all of a sudden the Lake doesn’t seem so friendly.
In 2009, New York passed a law requiring all people on boats smaller than 21 feet to wear personal flotation devices (PFD) from November 1 to May 1. This means motorboats, sailboats, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and paddle boats. It’s a good law — the LGA wants to remind folks that it is about to go into effect for this year. (Of course we’d REALLY like to see you ALWAYS wearing a PFD!)
If you go out on your boat and don’t wear a PFD because you don’t like the way it makes you look or feel, please go PFD shopping! Today’s PFDs fit better, look better and are easy to move around in. And if you ever think of going swimming or sail boarding during the cooler months, ALWAYS wear a thermal wet or dry suit.
Here are just a few reasons why it is so important to wear a PFD, especially this time of year:
1. Cold water lowers your body temperature. (Colder than 70 degrees F can cause hypothermia.) The water temperature is now 60 degrees in parts of Lake George. Your body can cool down 25 times faster in water than in air. If your body temperature goes too low, you can easily pass out and drown. Even if you become helpless from hypothermia, a PFD will keep you afloat.
2. If you run into trouble during the late fall and early spring, there is less boat traffic around to help, and response by rescue crews can be slower than during summer months.
3. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 9 out of 10 drownings occur in inland waters, most within a few feet of safety. Most of the victims own PFDs, but they die without them.
4. PFDs can help you stay alive longer in cold water. They let you float without using energy and they protect parts of your body from cold water.
5. Over the past several years, Lake George has experienced several tragic drowning accidents involving swimmers, paddlers, and people renting pontoon boats. Could a PFD have saved them? There is no way to know for sure, but none of them were wearing one.
Also… as winter approaches… here’s a few more cold water safety tips:
– If you find yourself accidentally thrown into cold water, don’t swim unless you can reach a nearby boat, fellow survivor, floating object or the shore. Even good swimmers drown while swimming in cold water. Swimming lowers your body temperature. Also, distances on Lake George are deceiving.
– If a nearby floating object is large, pull yourself up on it. The more your body is out of water, the warmer you’ll be. Keep your head out of the water to lessen heat loss and increase survival time.
– If you are wearing a PFD, put your body in the HELP position – the Heat Escape Lessening Posture. It will reduce the amount of body surface area exposed to cold water.
1. Draw the knees up to the chest.
2. Keep the face forward and out of the water.
3. Hold the upper arms at the side and fold the lower arms across the chest, (or hug yourself and put your hands under your armpits.
But… if the HELP position turns you face down, instead: bring your legs together tight and your arms tight to your sides and your head back.
– If there are others in the water, HUDDLE together for warmth.
Sources: U.S. Coast Guard website for information, and bottom two graphics
Photo credit: Top photo: Copyright Carl Heilman II