|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-07-14                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
July 14, 2008
Deadly Holiday Weekend Prompts Water Safety Warnings
AUSTIN, Texas -- During the July 4 holiday weekend, at least 13 Texans drowned in public waters. Seven of those were in North Texas, and together they bring the total number of water-related fatalities in Texas to 66 for this year. More than half of those deaths did not involve boats.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Division is charged with investigating all boating fatalities in the state, but because of game wardens' special training and equipment, they are also often called by local law enforcement agencies to assist in search and rescue and recovery operations in shoreline drownings. All water-related fatalities are reported to TPWD for statistical purposes, though reporting sometimes lags several weeks.
"Texas is a big state with a lot of water -- more water than any other state in the Lower 48," said Maj. Alfonso Campos, chief of marine safety enforcement for TPWD. "So it's not surprising that we'll see some accidents out there. What is tragic, though, is that almost all of these deaths could have been prevented."
Contrary to what's portrayed in movies, drowning victims usually don't scream and splash when in distress -- they just go underwater.
"When we encourage people to keep an eye on their party near the water, we're encompassing several messages, including never swim alone, keep a close watch on friends and family in the water, and keep a constant eye on children," said Brandi Bradford, TPWD boater education coordinator.
Bradford also recommends that groups or families assign one person to keep a constant watch on both adults and children in and near the water.
"It's especially important to be aware of hazards when you're on an open water body like a lake, river or bay," said Bradford. "Someone who is a weak swimmer may be in the water at waist level and their next step could be a 10-foot drop-off. We've had quite a few drownings in which someone swam after an inflatable raft or toy that was being blown across the water by the wind. When fatigue set in or a cramp hit, they were already too far away from shore and from help."
Practical advice from water rescue experts includes the steps, "reach, throw, then row."
The first step is to use a rope, tree branch or other object to try to reach the swimmer from shore. The next step is to throw something buoyant such as a life jacket, inner tube, floating raft or a plastic foam ice chest. If the first two steps fail, put on a life jacket and row out to the swimmer with a boat or a raft. Never reach for a drowning person with your own body, as the person in trouble can quickly drag you under in a panic
"Unfortunately, we see many multiple drowning cases where folks go into the water to rescue a friend or a loved one who is drowning and they end up becoming a drowning victim as well," said Campos.
"It's essential that you first try to help the swimmer using the reach, throw, and row method. If those steps don't work and you must go into the water because there is no other option, it's essential that you wear a life jacket, take a flotation device for the swimmer, and call for help or alert someone before you head into the water," he said.
Capt. Garry Collins, a TPWD game warden district supervisor in Garland, suggested putting young children and non-swimmers in life jackets, even when they are not aboard a boat.
"Texas law requires children 12 and under to wear life jackets when a boat is underway," Collins said. "But as we've seen this last weekend, the lake shore also can be a very dangerous place. At least one little girl would still be with us this week if she had been wearing a life jacket."
In addition to law enforcement efforts, TPWD is focusing this year on reaching the public with boating and water safety messages through a fun, interactive outreach campaign called "Nobody's Waterproof -- Play it Safe." The TPWD Nobody's Waterproof outreach team will be conducting on-the-water and shoreline water safety events at various lakes and other locations on high-profile weekends. See the schedule online.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
July 14, 2008
Galveston Island State Park to Host Texas Outdoor Family Outings
AUSTIN, Texas -- If you've been wanting to take the family on a camping trip, but weren't quite sure how to put up a tent, what equipment to take and where to go to camp, the Texas Outdoor Family program is right up your alley. The first Texas state park-hosted TOF pilot program will be held on Aug. 4-5 at Galveston Island State Park. Huntsville State Park will host a TOF workshop Sept. 13-14.
Holding the Texas Outdoor Family overnight workshops in state parks represents an expansion of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program that began two years ago at local parks in various cities across the state. The purpose of the program is to educate people and inspire future overnight camping and the use of state parks.
"State parks are the perfect venue to do these programs because they offer individual campsites for families, ample facilities, professional park personnel and a safe environment," said Chris Holmes, TOF state park coordinator. "Studies have suggested that people simply are hesitant to go camping in the outdoors or don't really know how to. There is interest, but there's a knowledge gap."
Another summer TOF workshop will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 13-14 at Bastrop State Park near Austin. This fall, the overnight workshops move to weekends with Huntsville State Park hosting a Sept. 13-14 program. A TOF workshop returns to Galveston Island State Park on Sept. 20-21.
Families can register by calling (512) 389-8903 and speaking to a Texas Outdoor Family representative for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Alternatively, families can send an e-mail to tofsp@tpwd.texas.gov to sign up. After registering, participants will be mailed a confirmation packet with directions and details on what to bring.
Though TOF curriculum content varies slightly from park to park, campers can learn about the outdoors from park rangers and interpretive specialists, how to set up a tent, how to use a camp stove and lantern safely, and other basic outdoor skills, such as paddling and fishing. All camping equipment is being provided thanks to TOF sponsor Toyota. Registrants must bring their own food to cook outdoors. Families will receive a suggested camp menu and shopping list. There is a 16-family maximum per workshop. The cost is $55 per family for up to eight people.
The thrust of the TOF program is to help address what has been termed "Nature Deficit Disorder" that affects many urban children, as well as adults, who have become disconnected from the natural world. The term first gained notoriety 2006 after the publishing of Richard Louv's 2006 groundbreaking book, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder."
"We've noticed over the past few years a trend throughout the nation and Texas that families aren't tent camping as much as they once did," Holmes said. "We recognize that many people in today's increasingly urban culture don't have the same skills or backgrounds as earlier generations of Texans."
Holmes adds that another key component of the TOF program is introducing families to land and water stewardship through such activities as picking up trash, building bird boxes and removing invasive species "to give them an idea of what it means to work in conservation and educate them about what state parks try to do."
* Correction, July 15, 2008: The original version of this news release incorrectly stated the name of Galveston Island State Park. The name has been corrected throughout the release.
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