Water wary

July is National Public Safety Month and we need to focus on beach and boating safety as we head out to beaches and to the sea in our boats. The Kauai Lifeguard Association will help you.

The lifeguard Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote Ocean Safety “in, around and on” waters. KLA’s programs include: Junior Lifeguard program, rescue tubes, Kauai beach gates, Lihue Airport videos, beach signage, water awareness visitor education, ocean safety educational displays at community events, to school children and boating safety.

This year, I am teaching Hawaii’s new mandatory boating safety classes in addition to other public educational activities for ocean safety to mitigate the risk of drowning. I am certified by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the National Safe Boating Council and the U.S. Coast Guard and have been teaching safe boating courses for 10 years.

What is drowning? Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion in liquid. (World Health Organization 2002 definition) In other words, it’s water getting into the airway and lungs.

Why do people drown? Folks drown because they are unaware of the dangers of rocks, rip currents, shore and reef breaks and crossing treacherous streams. Some folks know about these dangers, but choose to ignore them and take risks, Some overestimate their physical abilities or have medical problems. Many panic and hyperventilate (involuntarily swallowing water) when caught in rip currents or held down by the surf.

Is drowning preventable? You bet! Here are some tips. Learn to swim swim near a lifeguard, with adult supervision (on the shore). Swim with a buddy. Call for help if your buddy is missing. Obey all posted signs. Participate in the Junior Lifeguard program. Wear fins when boogie boarding. Know how to use a rescue tube. Wear a lifejacket while boating. Ninety percent of boaters who drown in boating accidents were not wearing a lifejacket.

Pay special attention to rip currents. Know how and why they are formed. Know how to identify them. They are the channels between reefs and shoals where water returns to the ocean from the shore. Know what to do if caught in a rip current. Don’t panic and try to fight the current. Stay clam and go with the flow. Upon release, signal for help and wait, unless you can away from it and swim to shore.

Why should we swim near a lifeguard? Here’s why: Our Kauai lifeguards are knowledgeable and skilled to provide advise and assistance if needed. In 2013, they made 92,256 preventions and 472 actual rescues.

Are you a boater? Beginning Nov. 10, all persons who operate a motorized vessel in Hawaii waters must have taken an approved boating safety course and show proof of completion. This rule applies to all boaters (government and recreational) unless they are exempt. Who’s exempt? U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captains; vessels with motors 10 horsepower or less; jet skis in a designated commercial zone; visitors from out of state and remaining in Hawaii waters for less than 60 days. Violators can be ned up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to 30 days. The U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Land and Natural Resources/Department of Boating and Ocean Recreation will be enforcing this law.

Will the boating course you took prior to 2014 satisfy this requirement? No, because it has not been approved for the Hawaii specific requirements

You can take an approved Hawaii boating course-on line by visiting Boat-Ed.com (fee) or BoatUS.com (fee) or BoatUS.org (free). If you would like to take a classroom course call 822-0448 to register. 

Classes will be held at the Kauai Veteran’s Center (across from the airport) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the following Saturdays: Aug.16, Sept. 13 and Oct. 11. This course (and all manuals) is FREE and is approved by DLNR/DOBOR.

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Jim Jung is KLA vice president 

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