‘They drink and they’re not safe.’ Safety first as Hoosiers head to the water this summer

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NOBLESVILLE — You’ll likely be looking for ways you and your family can stay cool this weekend as temps climb up near 90 degrees. 

It’s important to remember to check on your loved ones and neighbors when the sweltering heat of the summer arrives and stay as hydrated as you can. 

Indianapolis has not planned on opening any cooling centers just yet, but there are several other ways you can safely beat the heat like heading to the nearest lake, pool or splash pad. 

“We unfortunately see increases in drownings over the summer for this very reason,” Medical Director of Indianapolis EMS Mark Liao said. “Because of the weather being so hot, it’s going to be a lot of outdoor activities. People going to pools, being at large bodies of water, but wearing a life jacket can really make the difference in these situations.”

No matter how you choose to cool off. The dangers remain the same no matter the season. 

“When the heat is beautiful and hot like it is now, we do see an increase in EMS runs, that’s because people are doing outdoor activities out on the water,” Liao said. “But like I said, people can take steps to keep themselves safe when having fun on the water. 

Fun – in moderation – according to Liao, who has responded to far too many boating accidents while working for Indianapolis EMS, he’s afraid people often forget the rules when enjoying the summer sun. 

“Boating is like driving and it is illegal in this state to operate a water vehicle under the influence of alcohol and you do not wanna be in a boating accident with people who are drunk on board… it’s terrible,” Liao said. “Having a designated boater who is not drinking alcohol to make sure there is good supervision is really key.”

John Gano has served the community as a Master Conservation Officer with the Indiana DNR for 26 years. Working the water every weekend, Gano knows what it takes to keep cool and when that crosses the line. 

“You just have to try to drink a lot of water and find some shade when I can… which is pretty hard to do on a boat,” Gano said. “Because it’s very easy to get dehydrated out here and that actually increases the effects of alcohol.’

Gano and his team of officers routinely patrol the most heavily trafficked waterways of Central Indiana including Morse Reservoir in Noblesville. He’s never seen the reservoir this busy or this filled with first time boaters in his entire career. 

“Well can you blame them? It’s awful nice to come out and recreate,” Gano said. “But obviously we’re looking for alcohol issues and impairment with operators – we’ve already had some issues with that out here this summer. Just make sure you have a sober operator behind the wheel or a designated driver.”

Driving a boat is a summertime routine for the Dieckmeyers who call the reservoir home. 

“Every day, we’re out here every day,” Michele Dieckmeyer said. “We just love it here on Morse Reservoir and we just enjoy being like a big family.”

But not every day on the water is a party. 

“People are crazy. They get out here and they don’t understand the rules and they drink and they’re not safe,” Dieckmeyer said. “We’ve had a lot of years out here where we’ve had some close calls. Last year my daughter almost got ran over by a pontoon.”

Towing, which includes tubing, water skiing, wake boarding and other summer activities puts water sport enthusiasts at the most risk according to Gano. 

“A person could come off the tube very easily, same with a board or skis. If you don’t have a proper spotter or someone paying attention that person could be in the water and you’re vulnerable when you’re in water especially when there’s a lot of boats in that immediate vicinity,” Gano said. “Wearing life jackets is critical. Especially for all towing activities.”

Binoculars in hand Gano and his team keeps watch on the waves and does his best to inform boaters, so they don’t make tragic mistakes.

“The message we always say to people is safety first. That’s really what we’re looking to do out here is keep people safe. We’re looking for obvious safety violations when we’re out,” Gano said. “I love my job; I’ve enjoyed this reservoir since I was just a boy and those are the people, we work for who enjoy it like we do and the people we serve and… yeah… that’s the best part of the job by far.”

Another great way to beat the heat, get those toes in the water and wet a line. It is a free fishing weekend in Indiana. You don’t need an annual license as you would the rest of the year. 

“It’s a great activity for the family,” Gano said. “We have so many great resources, free natural resources for Hoosiers to enjoy and we just ask that you do so safely this summer.”

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