When the heat is on, Minnesotans head to the lakes for fun and sun.

But first, remember to take a few precautions to ensure the day at the beach is memorable for all the right reasons.

Lt. Lance Pearce of the Carver County Sheriff's Office, who serves as Chanhassen's public safety liaison officer, spent more than seven years as the county's water patrol supervisor.

With a large population of people on the water at any given time, summer is a busy time for the Carver County water patrol, and it staffs accordingly, Pearce said.

"A Monday in June will be a lot less busy than a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday later in the summer, when it's a lot warmer," Pearce said. The water patrol stations one boat on Lake Waconia; the second boat is rotated throughout the week to every lake in the county.

For a carefree and safe day on the water and at the beach, Pearce recommends the following:

1. Plan ahead. 

"Let someone at home know, where you're going and when you’re expected to return," Pearce said.

Pack a first aid kit and know how to use it. Bring plenty of water to drink, as well as sunscreen and bug repellent. Bring your cell phone and, if you're going to be boating or on the water, make sure to put it in a waterproof case. 

2. Whenever you're on the water, wear a life jacket. 

"I know they're hot and not the most comfortable thing to wear," Pearce said, "but wear your life jacket. They make them a lot better now, so they're not so uncomfortable. Wear your life jacket."

3. If at all possible, don't go boating alone. Take someone along.

4. Know and abide by the water safety and boating rules are for the lake you're on. If you don't know, go to the Minnesota DNR website, or pick up a pamphlet at any store or location that sells DNR fishing licenses. You can also pick up a pamphlet in the lobby at the Carver County Sheriff's Office.

5. If you're swimming, don't use drugs or alcohol.

6. Use the buddy system. "Always swim with someone else," Pearce said.

And be realistic about your swimming ability. Ally Farrell, a lifeguard at Lake Ann, said that part of her job is looking at the swimmers to see who's a strong swimmer and who may not be.

7. Stay hydrated. "When it is really hot, you get dehydrated, and when you're dehydrated, that's when your muscles cramp," Pearce said. "That's when a lot of swimmers get into trouble. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, because you're in the water, but you need to hydrate your body before swimming."


If there are lifeguards at the beach, always make sure you know where they are, so you can alert them quickly if necessary.

In case of an emergency, call 911. Know your location so you can provide clear directions to the emergency responders.

"If it is a true emergency," Pearce said, "if it’s a stranded boater, if there is boating accident, a swimmer in distress, get as much information as you can. Where did you last see the boat, where did you last see the swimmer? The most helpful thing you can do is provide the first responders with as much information as you can."

As for diving accidents, Pearce said the good news is that most swimming beaches in Minnesota don't have any places to dive. "I've been with the Sheriff's Office for 25 years, and I don't think we've had a diving accident where it was too shallow."

In unfamiliar bodies of water, Pearce recommends that before diving, swimmers should use a depth finder beforehand. "Make sure it's deep enough," Pearce said. "You may be out in the middle of the lake, but you don't know how deep it is or how shallow. 

And finally, "If you're boating, be respectful of other boaters and lake users."


Unsie Zuege is an award-winning multimedia journalist, who enjoys community journalism, bibimbop, Netflix, Trivia Mafia and snuggling tiny dogs, not necessarily in that order.


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