News release: Staying safe on cold water is everyone’s responsibility

October 26, 2023

Some people in Minnesota have put away their boats for the year, but plenty of others will squeeze out every bit they can of the open-water season, whether they’re chasing game, targeting fish or paddling lakes and rivers.

To anyone on or around the water this fall, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers this reminder: Your safety is your responsibility. With water temperatures consistently dropping, unexpected falls into the water are more likely to end in tragedy because even strong swimmers can become incapacitated quickly in cold water. Coupled with fewer people on the water to potentially help in an emergency, it’s vital that people take steps to ensure their safety.

While more boating-related accidents happen during the busy summer, a higher percentage of cold-water incidents are fatal and survival rates drop drastically.

“The water this time of year is unforgiving,” said Capt. Adam Block, DNR boating law administrator. “Taking safety precautions is the best way to ensure a day on the water doesn’t turn tragic.”

The easiest and most effective way to stay safe and survive a fall into the water is to wear a life jacket (foam is better than inflatable during the cold-water season), not just have one along.

People can reduce the likelihood of a fall overboard by distributing weight evenly in the boat and abiding by the manufacturer’s weight limits. Having a means of communication is important, too, as is making sure other people are aware where you’re going and when you plan to return. Changes in weather that result in shifting winds and storms can also lead to a treacherous situation, so it’s vital for anglers and hunters to keep an eye to the sky.

In addition to staying safe on the water, people who are hunting should always follow the four rules of firearms safety: Treat each firearm as if it is loaded; always control the muzzle of your firearm; be sure of your target and what is beyond; and keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot.

For more information, including how to survive a fall into cold water, visit the Minnesota DNR’s cold water safety webpage.

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