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Wear It! Oswego Reminds the Public to Take Proper Precautions for Cold Weather Water Recreation

OSWEGO, NY – The Wear It! Oswego campaign reminds the public to take the proper precautions when recreating on or near the water during the winter.

“Cold water can kill! That’s why we recommend taking extra precautions while recreating near cold water and enjoying outdoor activities such as ice fishing or cross country skiing,” said Jeff McCrobie, Oswego fire chief. “To be best prepared, dress in layers, wear a personal flotation device any time of the year, avoid alcohol consumption and watch for hazards in the water.”

McCrobie also reminds anglers that there are now personal flotation device zones below the Varick Dam on the Oswego River.

These mandatory zones are clearly indicated on signage in the Oswego River and visually monitored via video security cameras. Individuals not wearing a life jacket are prohibited in these zones, and those failing to comply with these requirements are subject to prosecution for trespass.

It is also prohibited to remain in or enter into the PFD zones, whether wearing a PFD or not, following the activation of the siren or while the red warning light is illuminated, indicating water flow changes nearby the Varick Dam and powerhouse.

What follows are some additional tips to stay safe while recreating during the cold weather:

Always wear a life jacket: Simply stated, life jackets save lives! Accidents on the water can happen too quickly to reach for and put on a stowed life jacket. According to the National Safe Boating Council (www.safeboatingcampaign.com), 70% percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 84% percent were not wearing a life jacket. Today’s life jackets are much more comfortable and lightweight than PFD styles of yesteryear. Some use inflatable technologies that inflate automatically when immersed in water for comfortable recreation; others even resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack.

Dress properly to prevent hypothermia: Hypothermia — the rapid loss of the body’s core temperature — can kill! In upstate New York, water temperatures remain relatively cold throughout most of the year. During cold weather, dress in layers of clothing that will trap body heat even when wet. Polypropylene or wool are good materials for such conditions. Avoid 100% cotton fabrics.

According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), a personal flotation device can assist in preventing hypothermia. If worn properly it aids in cold water shock and the inability to swim. The USCG has a thorough hypothermia presentation at http://www.uscg.mil/pvs/docs/coldwater1.pdf

Don’t mix with alcohol. Alcohol impairs coordination and judgment — two things vital for safe water recreation. Staying sober will help you stay safe!

Stay alert for changes in water levels. Hydroelectric power production, upriver canal operations and natural flow variations may cause unexpected swift currents and changes in water levels. Never try crossing the river when water rises, and move to the closest shoreline to exit.

Never recreate alone.

The Wear It! Oswego campaign raises public awareness throughout Oswego County about responsible and safe recreation on or near the water, as well as the importance of wearing life jackets.