Q&A: Safety tips for those on the waterways

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:14pm

With Memorial Day serving as the unofficial starting gun for enjoying Middle Tennessee’s waterways, we spoke with Carolyn Bauer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about what to know and what to look out for around the water.

What should people heading out on the waterways consider first?

For boaters, the best thing can do is wear a life jacket — that can save their lives. … Watch out for boating and alcohol. That can really be a dangerous combination [and just as illegal as a DUI]. When people get out on the water I don’t know if they realize how much of an effect the sun, the wind, the noise, the vibration of the boat can have — all of that takes a toll. They actually call it ‘boater’s hypnosis,’ and it can have an intoxicating effect or at least an effect on a person’s judgment even if they
are not legally over the limit.

What about considerations for swimmers or fisherman on the shore?

Two things: People should watch their children closely. We’ve already had a close call with a little girl found by some other swimmers under the water, which is murky. Children younger than 5 should be within arms reach. Children older than that — parents should be watching them and not texting, talking on the phone or whatever.

Then you have the other conditions with lake swimming too — water may not be clear, water depths are different, there may be currents, there may be a rock or a log that’s gotten lodged that could present a hazard. … [People should also] be aware of not exceeding swimming limits.

[Fisherman on shore] should really use a measure of caution, because footing can be uncertain. … I would definitely encourage fisherman to be cautious around dam areas, because there can be particularly turbulent water in those areas below the dam, so there should be an extra measure of caution on footing and staying back far enough from the shoreline to avoid any unintentional falls in.