Water Safety

Here in the Tri-Cities, we are fortunate enough to have plenty of fun and exciting things to do on the water. Whether it's fishing, swimming, diving, paddle boarding, or just lounging around, there is something for everyone!

It's important to remember that rivers, lakes, and other natural waterways all come with their own safety concerns. Below is some information that we believe will help us greatly reduce the number of water-related injuries and deaths in our community.

Make sure you follow the law.

Everyone born after 1955, older than 12, and operating a vessel with more than 15 horsepower needs to have a Washington State Boater Safety Card. Yes, this even includes us here at CBDR and our first responder counterparts! There are a variety of training options available, and there is even an approved (and FREE) online course here.

Life jackets save lives!

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

· Drowning is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States

· From 2005-2014, an average of 10 people a day drowned in the US.
> About 2/10 were children under 14 years of age

· Over 50% of people that survive drowning injuries require hospitalization or further care due to the possibility of brain damage.

Whether you are a non swimmer or a natural fish, you need to always wear your life vest when participating in any water activities outside of designated swimming areas (and even in them if you aren't a strong swimmer)!

This video from NRS will help you determine which type of jacket is best for you and your loved ones.

Note: Washington state law requires children under 12 to wear a life vest on vessels less than 19 ft in length. We always recommend that EVERYONE wear their vest, at a minimum, anytime a vessel is moving.

BEFORE Swimming in any natural water environment:

  1. Be sure you are water competent for natural environments before swimming – this is not your home pool!

  2. Always enter unknown or shallow water feet first.

  3. Watch out for currents, waves, and underwater obstructions – they’re not just found in the ocean!

Water competency (from the Red Cross)

What Does It Mean to Be Water Competent? (source: The Red Cross)

Water competency is a way of improving water safety for yourself and those around you through avoiding common dangers, developing fundamental water safety skills to make you safer in and around the water, and knowing how to prevent and respond to drowning emergencies. Water competency has 3 main components: water smarts, swimming skills and helping others.

Water Smarts

Take these sensible precautions when you’re around water (even if you’re not planning to swim):

  • Know your limitations, including physical fitness, medical conditions.

  • Never swim alone; swim with lifeguards and/or water watchers present.

  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket appropriate for your weight and size and the water activity. Always wear a life jacket while boating, regardless of swimming skill.

  • Swim sober.

  • Understand the dangers of hyperventilation and hypoxic blackout.

  • Know how to call for help (this sounds obvious, but in a stressful situation, even the most basic tasks can elude people).

  • Understand and adjust for the unique risks of the water environment you are in, such as:

        • River currents.

        • Water temperature.

        • Shallow or unclear water.

        • Underwater hazards such as vegetation and debris

The following test can be used to determine if you or someone else is water competent. Make sure that while doing this test, another swimmer or lifeguard is watching.

1. Enter water that’s over your head, then return to the surface.
2. Float or tread water for at least 1 minute.
3. Turn over and turn around in the water.
4. Swim at least 25 yards.
5. Exit the water.

Water safety resources and tips

Para nuestra comunidad de habla hispana, aquí hay algunos recursos sobre seguridad del agua y prevención de ahogamiento de Safe Kids:

Check out the Red Cross' free swim app! Learn to help keep your loved ones safe in & around water with drowning prevention & emergency response information. Includes educational games and videos for kids plus a swim lesson progress tracker.


1. If a child goes missing near water, check the water first! CPR needs to start as soon as possible.

2. If the child is found in the water, get the child out and shout for help.

3. If someone is nearby, have them call 911.

4. Check for breathing and clear the air passageway by turning the child on their side.

5. If the child is not breathing start CPR and rescue breathing- follow the instructions of the 911 emergency operator.

6. If the child becomes conscious, but has a possible neck or back injury:

a. Keep the child on their back

b. Brace the neck and shoulders with your hands or between your knees until emergency help arrives

c. Keep yourself and the child calm, speak in soft tones to comfort them