As thousands are planning to return to the waters of Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the Illinois River for the Memorial Day holiday, the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department is reminding them to boat safe, smart and sober.

While the waters do remain open, officers will be enforcing Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s current “Safer At Home” executive order related to the COVID-19 situation. Enforcement will include asking boaters to maintain distance between individual boats on the water as well as monitoring docks, boat ramps and shore lines.

GRDA Police also strongly encourage all visitors to wear their life jackets on the water. According to the United States Coast Guard, drowning is the cause of three-fourths of all boating fatalities, and among those fatalities 85 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets.

GRDA and the National Safe Boating Council offer these life jacket tips: Buy each person their own life jackets. One size does not fit all. Look at the label. It will provide the weight, size and proper use information. Try it on to check the fit. Once the straps and buckles are secured, it should not slip over their head or come down above the ears. Never use water toys in place of an approved life jacket. Check the life jacket yearly for flotation and fit. Make sure it is still in good condition, with no rips or tears.

Wear the life jacket to increase the chance of survival in an accident and to set a good example for others.

As for proper life jacket care, keep these tips in mind too: Dry it before storing. Store it in a cool, well-ventilated area. Keep it where it can be easily retrieved. Replace it when signs of wear appear. Don't alter the jacket. Don't dry clean or use harsh cleansers. Don't use direct heat to dry or leave in the sun indefinitely. Don't use the jacket as a cushion, a kneeling pad or as a boat fender.

Test life jackets before using it. The best way to test out the life jacket is by putting the life jacket on and walking into the water until it is up to the chest. The person should then pick up their feet and tilt their head back; allow the body to float. If the jacket rides up, try tightening it to the body; if it continues to rise, then the person should invest in a smaller jacket or different style of jacket.

A child’s life jacket must fit tight, and they should not grow into a life jacket.

Those who have an emergency and need immediate assistance while on the water should dial 911. If a cell phone is not available on the boat, radio for help on Marine Band 16. The department’s nonemergency number is 918-256 0911.

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