OEMC and Marine Public Safety Officials Highlight Tips to Enjoy Boating Season and Water Activities Safely this Summer

May 21, 2021

National Safe Boating Week Kicks off May 22

With boating season and summer activities beginning in Chicago, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), the Chicago Fire, Police Departments and Park District, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police are reminding residents and visitors out and about on Chicago’s Lakefront and River to prevent water rescues and emergencies by adhering to boating rules and keep safety in mind on beaches and pools.   
“We want to remind everyone to stay safe both on and off the water” said Rich Guidice, Executive Director of OEMC. “OEMC receives water rescue and marine distress calls to 9-1-1 and some of these incidents can be avoided by taking precautions.”
During National Water Safety Month and National Safe Boating Week May 22-28 and to kick off the boating and beach season, marine safety participants provided a water rescue demonstration at North Avenue Beach Boat House today where the Chicago Fire Department Air Sea Rescue Unit, the Chicago Police Marine and Helicopter Unit, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police (IDNR) and the Chicago Park District conducted a simulated water rescue and displayed waterfront emergency response.

OEMC urges everyone to keep safety in mind as we all get out and enjoy summer in Chicago. Beaches open Friday, May 28.

Lakefront/Beach Safety: 
 Wear a Life Jacket! Not only having a life jacket but wearing it properly is the first defense against drownings. Life jackets come in numerous sizes and types designed for different activities. The life jacket you wear to the pool may not be suitable for kayaking on a river as well. Always check the manufacturer tag for any weight maximums and usage designation as well as the United States Coast Guard Life Jacket requirements.
 Boaters should be mindful of break wall locations at all times; When water levels rise high enough to cover the walls, boaters may be at risk of serious injury and vessel damage. 
 Boating Under the Influence is just as deadly as drinking and driving! It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. This law pertains to ALL boats including canoes and rowboats.

Pole Markers: Be aware of your location along the lakefront should an emergencyarise. Signs are posted on light poles in locations along the Chicago Lakefront, Grant Park streets and south Lake Shore Drive where addresses may not be available. 
 Learn to Swim-learning to swim can be fun and easy, no matter your age. Check out local swim programs at schools, community centers, and the Park District. Go to the Chicago Park District website for further details on Swimming Lessons offered in your area.
 Never Swim Alone or at night! - Swimming alone or in the dark is extremely dangerous and can end in tragedy. Even when at personal pools and spas, swimming without a buddy is never safe and should not be done.
 Swim Near Lifeguards-Swimming at a Lifeguard protected pool or beach is essential to safety. Lifeguards are trained in numerous rescue skills, CPR, AED usage, and much more. Listen to their rules and instructions as they are there for your safety and enjoyment. Never rely on lifeguards as “babysitters” for children in the water, if your child is in the water, you should be too.
 Take a CPR class! - Learning CPR is easy and an essential skill for the bystander who may witness an aquatic emergency. Take a CPR class this summer at your local Fire Station, Hospital, or other agency and increase your readiness to help a loved one or someone else in need. Visit the American Heart Association or American Red Cross websites for details on how and where to sign up for a class near you!
 Report suspicious activity-Protecting our beaches and pools is a public effort and reporting any unwanted or suspicious activity to first responders immediately can help save lives. If you ever see something unusual or are ever unsure, please call 9-1-1 right away.
 Wear sunscreen, drink plenty of fluids, and have fun! Be Safe Chicago!
 Rip Currents: Learn how to escape a rip current:  Relax, swim to shore but don’t swim against current; If you can’t escape, float or tread water. 
 Lakefront Paths: Heed the warnings and obey signage or officials on path closures; Do NOT navigate around barricades or closures – they are there for your safety to avoid risks of falls or being swept into the water, requiring rescue. During thunderstorms, being near bodies of water such as the lakefront paths or Riverwalk can pose threats of flooding and being swept into currents, especially with high lake levels. Heed any warnings to avoid the lakefront and Riverwalk when these are issued.    

OEMC issues several alerts and notifications to keep residents up to date on weather conditions and emergencies:  
 Notify Chicago: Sign up for emergency alerts at www.NotifyChicago.org 
 CHILAKE: For lakefront notices, TEXT “CHILAKE” to 7-8-0-1-5  
 COVID: Get COVID-19 updates by TEXTING “COVID19” to 6-7-2-8-3  
 CHIBIZ: For alerts affecting businesses, TEXT “CHIBIZ” to 6-7-2-8-3  

For additional information on emergency preparedness information, visit the OEMC website at Chicago.gov/OEMC. Follow the Office of Emergency Management and Communications on Facebook, Twitter (@ChicagoOEMC) and Instagram (chicago_oemc_911).

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