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

May 20, 2022

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.

City of Chicago beaches will open for the Summer Friday, May 27. The Chicago Park District urges patrons to enjoy the beaches safely and responsibly and look for “No Swimming Allowed” signage that indicates that swimming is not sanctioned in that area. Visitors should consult the district’s website or social media platforms to ensure water conditions are safe for swimming before heading out to the beach and only enter the water when a lifeguard is on duty. Swim hours are 11am to 7pm, daily, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

In advance of Memorial Day and the start of 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.

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.
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's Location Identifier/Pole Marker Program
When calling 9-1-1 in an emergency on the lakefront utilizing the OEMC’s pole markers helps first responders get to a specific area where addresses may not be present. The green pole markers are affixed to light poles with white letter and number combinations used to identify locations. The pole markers are located in Grant Park and along the Lakefront path from Oak St. to Fullerton St. and Montrose Ave. to Foster Ave.; on DuSable Lake Shore Drive from 6600 South to 1200 South (Roosevelt Rd.).

The location identifiers/pole markers are utilized at various events such as the Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza, the Chicago Marathon, and the Air and Water Show by attendees to inform on-site security of their location. They have also proven to be essential components to public safety plans. In addition, the signage can be used to inform others of their location as well. For more information on this program and for updates, visit the OEMC website and click on Public Safety icon at Chicago.gov/OEMC

Report Suspicious Activity: If you See Something Say Something. The city reminds the public to be aware of their surroundings and to report suspicious activity. If you notice something suspicious, notify onsite security or call 9-1-1. If You See Something, Say Something™ is a national anti-terrorism public awareness campaign that emphasizes the importance of reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.

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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