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Dec. 13, 2018
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Special lake safety report

By Jane Harrison

LLA expands objectives to lake safety

The Lake Lanier Association is spearheading a water safety alliance of Lake Lanier stakeholders to promote proper boat operation and general water safety. The forthcoming alliance expands the core objectives of the private 4,000-member organization from Clean Lake, Full Lake to include Safe Lake. “We feel it is our responsibility to keep an eye” on safety, said LLA Executive Director Joanna Cloud. The inclusion of safety into the organization’s mission extends beyond its original focus on water quality and quantity. “It is a very natural extension of our advocacy,” Cloud said.

LLA officials met with representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Lanier Islands Resort, and the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau late last month to begin organizing the alliance. Officials from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, who attended a previous meeting with LLA, were not able to attend. Cloud said another meeting would be scheduled this month.

Cloud said all lake stakeholders, including marine supply merchants, marina managers, and recreational lake users, are invited to participate in the alliance. “The association has already spoken to a wide range of government and marine based organizations regarding participating and has seen indications of interest from many local entities,” she said

The group’s short term goals would be to promote safety awareness and education for boaters and others who swim and recreate on the lake. Longer term goals would be potential changes in state legislation. “Better education would go a long way toward resolving issues,” said Cloud, referring to unsafe boating practices that have led to three fatalities on the lake since April. She added that although boating safety has received a lot of media play this summer, there are more fatalities caused each year by drowning. The alliance’s reach would extend into general water safety. The alliance’s potential could reach the state house with a possible push for state mandates requiring boater education and licensing, Cloud said.

LLA launched its safety educational campaign with full page ads about Georgia’s 100-foot law in Lake Lanier area publications. One of the most important “rules of the road” is the ‘100-foot law,’ which includes all boats, not just personal watercrafts (such as Jet Skis or Sea Doos), and requires boat operators to slow to idle speed when they are within 100 feet of docks, piers, bridges, shorelines or people in the water. The 100-foot law makes it illegal to jump the wake of another boat within 100 feet and to “buzz” other boats. In addition, it prohibits vessels from operating around or within 100 feet of another vessel faster than idle speed unless it is overtaking or meeting the other vessel in compliance with the rules of the road for boat operation. The law also makes it illegal for boat operators to follow closely behind another vessel, jump the wake of another vessel, or change or reverse their course of direction in order to ride or jump in the wake of another vessel.

LLA’s next planned safety initiative is an educational booth at the Forest Wood Cup Aug. 9-12, when a throng of anglers and fishing fans will converge on Laurel Park and the Gwinnett Center Arena. The private alliance will also seek to raise funds to promote safety on Lanier.

Top safety tips

Lakeside surveyed a local boating expert and three Lake Lanier organizations for their top safety tips. The tips were compiled from responses by Steve Johnson, retired US Coast Guard, experienced ship navigator, deck officer, and USCG license instructor for Sea School, and founder of NavTeach.com; Roy Crittenden, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary; Lisa Beers, Atlanta Sail & Power Squadron; and Joanna Cloud, Executive Director, Lake Lanier Association.

1)  Know, and practice the 100 foot rule – keep your vessel at idle speed or less when within 100 feet of a moored, anchored or drifting boat, dock, pier bridge, person(s) in the water, shoreline adjacent to a residence, public park, beach, swimming area, restaurant or other public use area.
2) Take a boater education class; learn and abide by “Rules of the Road.”
3) Know how to operate your boat; practice boating in various weather conditions.
4) Avoid excessive speed. Safe speed depends on size and handling characteristics of the vessel, weather conditions, darkness, electronics such as depth finders, radar and GPS, traffic density, and the capability of the operator
4) Maintain a lookout. Be aware of changing situations such as weather conditions, boat traffic, navigation, visibility, speed, day or night operations, and the general knowledge of your passengers when it comes to safety and emergencies.
5) Make sure each regular crew member knows basic boat handling and operation. There may be a time when the primary boat operator is not capable of operating the boat.
6) Never boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
7) Use correct action to avoid collision. If you make a maneuver to avoid a collision, consider the consequences that could put you in danger with other boats.
8) Have a paper chart and compass on board, know how to use them, and make sure all regular crew members on board can do basic navigation. If there is an electronic system failure, a paper chart and compass will help you get safely back to dock.
9) If there is a chance that you are going to be out at night, check your lights, have spare bulbs and fuses, tools to replace lights, flashlights and extra batteries
10) Always carry proper safety equipment: fire extinguishers, life jackets, first aid kits.
                              
- compiled by Jane Harrison


Coast Guard Auxiliary adds new safety initiatives

Improved communication with local law enforcement and dissemination of safe boating materials at area marinas are two initiatives U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 29 plans to add to its safety offerings on Lake Lanier. Members of the near 100-strong organization tasked by the Coast Guard to promote recreational boating safety on Lake Lanier discussed new methods to safeguard the lake at its July meeting. Held less than a month after two boating accidents caused two deaths and one serious injury, the meeting focused on increasing the unit’s slate of safety activities.

The organization’s security assistance during the search for the body of Griffin Prince, killed along with his brother, Jake, in a July accident on Lanier, forged a closer connection with the Hall County Sheriff’s Department, according to Flotilla officials. “We have a new, good relationship with law enforcement on this lake. They see us as an equal public safety entity,” said Flotilla Marine Safety Chairman Jim Beckemeyer.

Operations Chairperson Don Hunt reported that bond would be strengthened in late July or early August when the Flotilla expected the county to provide a digital radio to connect directly with authorities and emergency services. “We are now in the game with this radio, plugged directly into Hall County,” Hunt said. “This technology gives us tremendous ability to communicate and coordinate” emergency efforts, he said. It is expected to streamline communications beyond the limited range and effectiveness of marine radio. Hunt said the digital radio would be given to a Flotilla member who lives near the lake and would be available to coordinate with the emergency commander and mobilize members to help.

Flotilla Member Training Chairman Bruce Lindsey suggested that providing “Rules of the Road” decals and safety signs for boat ramps would better educate boaters on avoiding accidents. He said dissemination of safe boating materials arose during a July meeting at Lake Lanier Islands with officials from the Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Hall County enforcement. He proposed decals showing rules regarding navigational lights and horn signals be provided for boaters to affix to  their dashboards. It was also suggested that signs listing safe boating practices be posted at marinas and that safety brochures be given out at marina guard shacks and fuel docks.

These initiatives would add to the Flotilla’s safety emphasis, which already includes safe boating classes, vessel inspections, and weekend watch stands. The Auxiliary offers one class a month from February to October and  plans to coordinate a public education program with Singleton Marine. Flotilla members perform vessel safety checks at area marinas and parks twice monthly May-Aug. Weekends from mid-May-mid-September, Flotilla members stand watch from noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays to respond to calls on the marine radio at the Operations Center just outside Aqualand Marina. The unit also deploys a boat during watch hours to help lake-goers in trouble, whether they run out of fuel, have engine trouble, run aground, or need help in an emergency. “We do everything the Coast Guard does, except law enforcement,” said Public Affairs Officer Roy Crittenden. He added that when boaters see the big Coast Guard emblem on their craft, they become more careful.

Upcoming classes
When: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 11, Sept. 15, Oct. 13; separate classes for groups or organizations on other dates may be available.
Where: Operations Center, 6595 Lights Ferry Rd., Flowery Branch
Cost: $40, family discount $25 (call or email for details)
wInformation: www.a0700209.uscgaux.info/, (770) 271-4059

Vessel Safety Checks
What: Free 30-45 minute inspection by certified Vessel Examiner.
When/where: 8 a.m.-noon Aug. 11, Old Federal Park
Information: www.a0700209.uscgaux.info/

Some requests for safety items go overboard

Fatal boating accidents on Lake Lanier since April have pushed some customers at one area boating supply store toward outlandish and risky methods to increase their visibility on the lake.
Requests for bright lights and flags for towable tubes have West Marine manager Scott Sears pleading for people to calm down and concentrate on safe boat operation.

“On average, one customer a day comes in wanting strobe lights or spotlights in order to be seen by everyone out there,” said the manager of the marine supply store on Lanier Islands Parkway. Such illumination is not only illegal, Sears said, but unsafe, as the bright glare can obscure navigation lights and blind the operator of the boat.

“Some people are not thinking this through. It’s a knee jerk reaction to the accidents and is making it more dangerous. That bothers me,” he said. He reported several requests for flags to attach to tubes pulled behind boats. “This is ludicrous. It could impale someone,” he said. “We need to figure out what we can do collectively and as individuals to calm people down,” Sears said. Rather than outfitting boats and tubes with risky, illegal accessories, lake goers need to focus on safe boating. “The accidents that have happened recently have one common denominator: the vessel was operated (allegedly) improperly … at least one thing was not being done in a safe manner,” he said. “I want folks to calm down and operate their boats in a proper way.”

Jenny Serwitz, owner of Pull Watersports in Cumming, said she thinks recent accidents have increased safety awareness but that she’s not had customers seeking unusual means to be seen on the lake. She said the store’s location, off Ga. 400 on Keith’s Bridge Road near small lake parks, puts it in a family-oriented environment with less boat traffic than the southern part of the lake.

Both Serwitz and Sears reported steady sales of towable tubes, wake boards and other recreational equipment despite the scare generated by the accidents. And, they have seen an increase in demand for traditional safety supplies, such as life jackets, throwable cushions, fire extinguishers and legal lights. “Our safety department is up two figures,” said Sears, who has also experienced more requests for personal locator systems that use GPS coordinates to signal for help if a person falls overboard. Serwitz said sales of 110-decibel air horns that attach to boat dash boards have been up.

Both hailed Lake Lanier as a prime recreation destination that draws millions annually for fun and sport. “It’s a wonderful lake,” said Serwitz. “I’m sure everyone has a story. We’ve all run into a circumstance where something could have gone wrong … things happen. I can feel for those” whose stories turned tragic, she said. Greater awareness and safe boating practices, not hysterics, is key to making happy memories on the lake, Sears said.




 

 
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