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Be safe on Montana's waters this summer

Montana has experienced six boating fatalities this year alone due to high water and cold temperatures. Even with summer temperatures, Montana has cold water year-round and it's important to remember that cold water can be deadly.

If you are recreating on or around water, remember to wear a life jacket and always tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning.

Here are the phases of cold-water immersion:

• Cold Shock (initial entry to 5 minutes): Gasping for breath and hyperventilation are natural reactions to cold water. Try to get your breathing under control and avoid panicking.

• Cold Incapacitation and Swim Failure (5 to 30 minutes): During this time, you will lose dexterity and grip strength. Cooling of arms and legs impairs the ability to swim. Even the best swimmers cannot continue to function in cold water.

P• Hypothermia: Cooling of the body's core temperature eventually results in loss of consciousness. How quickly hypothermia sets in depends on the water temperature, body type, clothing and behavior. Always seek medical attention right away.

High water is dangerous

Montana is experiencing extremely high water, so if you plan to float on the lakes and rivers this summer, always remember to wear a life jacket. Accidents on the water can happen much too fast to have time to reach and put on a stowed life jacket. Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved, appropriate for your water activity and fits properly. A life jacket that is too large or too small does not do a good job of keeping you safe. Also remember that just wearing a life jacket does not protect you in all circumstances. Always know the conditions where you are heading, be prepared, and consider other locations as needed.  

Check the weather, including the water temperature. Know the latest marine weather forecast prior to going out and keep a regular check for changing conditions. Always dress for the weather, wearing layers in cooler weather, and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet.  Cary safety gear and know how to use it.  Boating unprepared can have dangerous consequences. Sometimes it's just better not to go; boat another day.

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