Water Safety officials urge use of life jackets

Charis Patires
Lake Sun Leader
Adults and children are encouraged to use a life jacket while out in the water.

As boaters head out onto Lake of the Ozarks for one of the busiest boating weekends of the year, local water safety officials are reminding people to take precautions in light of several accidental deaths on the Lake this summer. Most could have been prevented. 

During the month of August, there were five drownings at Lake of the Ozarks, 11 in the Troop F area of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. This Troop covers Audrain, Boone, Callaway, region which covers Cole, Cooper, Gasconade, Howard, Miller, Moniteau, Montgomery, Morgan, and Osage counties.

At Lake of the Ozarks drownings occurred after a man jumped off of a cliff, several happened from falls off a dock, and others from swimmers just out enjoying the Lake. 

Master Captain and Lake of the Ozarks Water Safety Council member Bob May says many drownings could have been prevented if the person was waring a life jacket. 

“Be better prepared and aware before you or anyone in your family get into or around the water,” he said. 

According to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, drowning is fast and silent, and can happen in as little as 20-60 seconds. In addition to wearing a life jacket, the NDPA recommends people never leave children unsupervised near water, learn CPR, keep a life-saving ring and shepherd’s hook nearby, and to always be aware of potential dangers in the environment. (For more tips, go to https://ndpa.org/water-safety-steps/).

In one case this summer a captain died after exposure to Carbon Monoxide inside an enclosed cabin cruiser. Several passengers survived. 

CO is odorless, tasteless, colorless and mixes evenly with the air, May says. Boaters should check all exhaust hoses and clamps to be sure no fumes are getting into the cabin areas. Carbon Monoxide detectors should be installed to provide an alert if fumes are present. Boaters should also be aware that even in a perfect system of exhausting fumes places around the outside of a boat, like near or under a swim platform, are spots fumes can form an envelope where it may be dangerous as well.

“Even a center console style boat can have CO exposure if wind conditions and direction and speed of the vessel are right,” he said. Exhaust from the engines can curling up into the center console area.

Early symptoms of CO poisoning are irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. It is often confused with seasickness or intoxication. If those symptoms are present, get fresh air quickly, change the direction or speed of your boat, open hatch windows to ventilate and monitor others on your boat.

According to Doug Beck, co-chair of the Lake of the Ozarks Water Safety Council and president of the Lake of the Ozarks Captains Association, CO poisonings are rare, but do happen. The US Coat Guard reported 31 boating-related CO poisonings, including five deaths in the U.S. in 2019. 

CO Safety Checklist

• Beck provides these tips for protecting yourself and others from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. 

• You're in command of your boating safety. Follow these simple steps to help keep carbon monoxide from poisoning you, your passengers, or those around others.

• Know where and how CO may accumulate in and around your boat.

• Maintain fresh air circulation throughout the boat at all times. Run exhaust blowers whenever the generator is operating.

• Know where your engine and generator exhaust outlets are located and keep everyone away from these areas.

• Never sit, teak surf, or hang on the back deck or swim platform while the engines are running. Teak surfing is never a safe activity.

• Never enter areas under swim platforms where exhaust outlets are located unless the area has been properly ventilated.

• Although CO can be present without the smell of exhaust fumes, if you smell exhaust fumes, CO is also present. Take immediate action to dissipate these fumes.

• Treat symptoms of seasickness as possible CO poisoning. Get the person into fresh air immediately. Seek medical attention-unless you're sure it's not CO.

• Install and maintain CO alarms inside your boat. Do not ignore any alarm. Replace alarms as recommended by the alarm manufacturer.