After a concerning number of drownings and close calls this spring, King County officials are encouraging the public to be cautious during Independence Day week at rivers, lakes, and Puget Sound.

At least 12 people in King County have drowned so far this year after the total number last year nearly doubled from 2018. Black residents in King County – who have less access to pools and swimming lessons – are two-and-a-half times more likely to drown than white residents. Recent immigrants and people who are unfamiliar with the region’s colder, swifter waters are also at greater risk due to language and cultural barriers.

The nationwide shortage of lifeguards has increased risks at local lakes. Rivers are particularly dangerous this time of year because people are looking for ways to cool off but the water in rivers can still be extremely cold, which can cause even strong swimmers to quickly lose stamina and experience hypothermia.

“We want people to enjoy spending time along our waterways this summer, but they have to be smart about it,” said Patti Cole-Tindall, King County Sheriff. “The Sheriff’s Office has well-trained rescue crews, but the sheer size of King County makes it difficult to get to some of these remote locations when someone in the water is in trouble.”

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 in King County. Last year, 29 people drowned from preventable situations in King County, nearly twice the number of drownings that occurred in 2018.

Experts at the King County Sheriff’s Office, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and the Department of Natural Resources and Parks shared these potential life-saving tips for anyone considering going into lakes and rivers this summer:

  • Wear a life jacket
  • Don’t consume alcohol or drugs
  • When children are swimming, designate an adult to watch and stay nearby
  • Always tell someone where you plan to enter and exit a river before you leave home
  • Sometimes the best decision is to not enter the water if conditions appear riskier than you expected

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