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River Safety Guidelines

Sioux Falls Fire Rescue would like to provide river users with safety guidelines while operating on the rivers in South Dakota. With the extreme amounts of snow and rain in South Dakota, the rivers have shown their power. We would like to share some river safety concerns. Please keep these in mind while out on the water.

Low-head dams look harmless but these dams have the nickname “drowning machines.” The dams have great power, and the bubbles that are created from the dam take away a person’s natural buoyancy. The dams’ overflow causes a submerging force to the person, which causes the person to hit rocks or other debris in the river and lose the ability to react. These dams can also look very shallow when entered by a boat or swimmer, but they can be very deep. The depth and the force of the dam will pull the debris and victim back into the dam causing the person to drown. Even a person wearing a life jacket may be pulled down with these strong currents. The best method is to avoid these dams and to go around them.

The rivers, which are subject to flash flooding throughout the summer, become dangerous bodies of water because of the amount of debris. The debris creates what are known as strainers and eddies in the river. These are death traps to the swimmer. They can catch the person’s legs or clothing and pull a victim down causing them to drown.

Before you go out on the water, here are some safety tips to follow.
• Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and where to call if you don't.
• Be sure your water skills and experience is equal to the river and the conditions. Never boat alone.
• Wear a properly fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when you are in or near the river.
• Be prepared for extremes in weather, especially cold weather. Know about the dangers of hypothermia and how to deal with it. Know early signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration in hot weather.
• Reduce the threat of injury by wearing protective footwear and proper clothing.
• Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. Learn or review medical aid responsibilities and CPR.
• When in doubt, stop and scout.

We ask that all parents take time out of their busy schedules to educate themselves and talk about water safety with their families. Thank you and stay safe