The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds anyone whose autumn plans include spending time on or around the water to keep safety in mind. While more boating-related accidents happen during the summer, boating fatalities are higher during the cold-water season.
As water temperatures drop, water-based activities become riskier. A fall into a cold lake, pond or river can result in even a strong swimmer becoming incapacitated quickly. Further, cries for help can go unheard and rescues can take longer than in the warm-weather months when more people are on or near the water.
“Nobody expects to encounter a life-or-death situation when they’re out on the water, but the people who survive such experiences tend to be the ones who are best prepared,” said Lt. Adam Block, DNR boating law administrator.
The easiest and most effective way to stay safe and survive a fall into the water is to wear a life jacket. Having a life jacket “nearby” will not help in an accidental fall. Foam life jackets are the best option when the water is cold because inflatable life jackets may not fully inflate.
While boating or paddling, people can reduce the likelihood of a fall overboard by distributing weight evenly and abiding by the manufacturer’s weight limits. Changes in weather that result in shifting winds and storms can also lead to a treacherous situation, so it’s vital for anglers, hunters and others recreating on or near the water to keep an eye to the sky.
For more information, including how to survive a fall into cold water, see the DNR’s cold water safety page (mndnr.gov/ColdWater).