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Water and boating safety being stressed this summer

SOUTHMONT ó With the start of the summer recreation season this weekend, Alcoa joined forces with local law enforcement officers at High Rock Lake Friday to stress the importance of water and boating safety.
“Accidents can happen in an instant,” said Tommy Gibson, an Alcoa community relations manager. “When they do, there’s little or no time to react. Your decision to wear a life jacket ó instead of stowing it under a seat ó could mean the difference between life and death.”
Alcoa said in a press release that statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard show 24 people in North Carolina died in boating accidents during 2006, a 41 percent increase from 2005.
Nationwide, 710 people died in boating accidents, nearly two-thirds of whom were not wearing a life jacket.
This year, law enforcement officials will have another tool when responding to emergencies on the lake.
A new long-range communications system, purchased with a grant from the Alcoa Foundation, will facilitate better communications among agencies patrolling the lakes, including the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and local law enforcement.
The improved system provides a faster way for local police and rescue squads to contact Wildlife Resources and Coast Guard officials. Communication is now possible among law enforcement all along the lake and even between different lakes in the region.
“This new communications system will be a tremendous help during emergency situations,” said Dick Fisher, of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. “It’s important that those of us patrolling the lakes can share information quickly. This new system will help us do that.”
The water safety campaign will promote the message, “Play it safe on the lakes. Always wear a life jacket.”
The “Play it safe” message will be delivered through the following methods:
– Newspaper ads, radio ads and a billboard on Highway 8.
– Signs with water safety tips (in English and Spanish) posted at all public swim areas and boat access areas.
– Printed grocery bags that will be distributed to marinas and convenience stores around the Yadkin lakes.
– Safety whistles that will be provided to local law enforcement officers to distribute to boaters.
Friday’s campaign kickoff featured water and boating safety advice from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and local law enforcement officials from Davidson, Montgomery, Rowan and Stanly counties.
This week is National Safe Boating Week (May 17ń23) and marks the launch of the annual North American Safe Boating Campaign, sponsored by the National Safe Boating Council.
“If you think about it, a modern life jacket is a lot less restrictive than the automobile lap and shoulder belt most of us wear without a second thought,” says Virgil Chambers, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, an umbrella group representing boating safety advocates throughout North America.
“But if you happen to be involved in a boating accident, you’ll be very glad it’s on.”
Some water safety guidelines:
– Never swim alone.
– Stay in designated swim areas.
– Always keep a close eye on children and inexperienced swimmers.
– Do not swim after drinking alcohol.
– Watch for severe weather.
And some boating safety guidelines:
– Always wear a life jacket. North Carolina law requires children younger than 13 to wear an approved life jacket.
– Tell someone where you are boating and when you will return.
– Do not operate a boat after drinking alcohol.
– Watch for severe weather.

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