Memorial Day weekend — it’s the unofficial kickoff of summer festivities and a time to remember those who have served our country. Even though this Memorial Day may be different this year due to COVID-19, there are still ways to ensure the safety of you and your family during this special holiday.
An important safety tip that you and your family should follow this Memorial Day is to social distance. Even though its usually a weekend spent with most of our family and friends, precautions need to be taken in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
With public use areas and beaches reopening in Texas, many people will be visiting these spots during Memorial Day weekend. The state of Texas specifies that an “individual’s group may not exceed the greater of the individual’s household or up to 5 individuals who go to the park, beach, river or lake together.” Maintaining at least 6 feet of separation from others not within your group is vital. If it’s not possible to maintain this distance, a face covering and proper sanitation should be practiced. Lastly, please stay home if you or any family members feel sick.
If you and your family do plan to visit one of the BRA’s reservoirs over the holiday weekend, it’s important to understand the following statistics to help prevent accidents on the water. According to the National Safety Council, about 10 people die from drowning every day in the United States, not including boating incidents. While drowning deaths peak among 1 and 2-year old children, drownings are the second leading cause of preventable death through age 15.
In 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard counted 4,145 boating accidents that resulted in 633 deaths, 2,511 injuries and $46 million dollars’ worth of property damage. Where the cause of death was known, drowning was the cause of 77% of boating fatalities. Of those drowning victims, 84% were not wearing a life jacket. To read more about the U.S. Coast Guard’s boating safety statistics, click here.
With increased traffic on the water during Memorial Day weekend, it’s vital to take the necessary precautions to prevent boating and swimming accidents. Fortunately, there are a variety of steps you can take to help protect you and your family while on the water.
Always pay attention to your surroundings and keep a safe distance from others, even when you are on a boat. This means no beaching or rafting your boat next to someone else and keeping your distance at the fuel stations.
While it’s legal to have open containers of alcohol on BRA reservoirs, a designated boat driver is recommended to help avoid accidents. Alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in the U.S. Coast Guard’s report, so a designated driver is an efficient way to keep you and others safe. However, please do not allow children to operate watercrafts.
There should also be a designated “water watcher” to pay attention to children who are swimming in the water. Drowning can be silent and quick, so it’s vital that there is an adult who is watching the water with their full attention. Especially during a holiday weekend, please swim only in designated areas. Swimming in open water has many unpredictable factors and can be extremely dangerous with increased water traffic.
Whether you are on a boat, in the lake or a pool, everyone should wear life jackets that fit properly and are securely fastened. Boaters are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board for every person on their boat, so everyone on board should always be wearing their life jacket. To make sure that your life jacket fits, put on the life jacket and fasten the straps. Then, hold your arms straight up over your head and ask a friend to grasp the top of the arm openings and gently pull up. The lifejacket shouldn’t be able to slip over your head and should fit snugly.
Outside of the water, there are still plenty of safety practices that you can follow to help keep the weekend fun and safe. Hydration is key while enjoying the hot Texas sun, so pack plenty of water for everyone in your group. Be sure to apply liberal amounts of sunscreen to prevent sunburns.
Before cooking hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, ensure that the grill is properly cleaned. Make sure that all meat is cooked thoroughly, especially chicken, beef and pork and wash your hands after handling raw meat. After you are done cooking on the grill, check to see if the propane is turned off and the coals are cooled.
Even though extra safety precautions are needed for this Memorial Day weekend, it’s still a time to remember and celebrate with those who are most important to you. Be safe, know the risks and have fun.
For more information on Memorial Day safety, check out this article from the American Safety Council here.