Safety and fun in your watershed
watershed stewardship action kit
Safety and Fun in Your
There are several important things to remember when you are working outside. If youfollow these safety tips, you will have a fun and enjoyable experience.
Before You Go
Remember to tell a friend or relative the date, time, and location of your watershedactivity. Work with a partner so if you are injured, someone can go for help.
Find the phone number and location of the nearest medical center to your work site.
Carry a cellular phone with you and note the location of a pay phone. Remember that
cell phones do not always work in rural areas, so do not rely on them at all times.
ty is the kind
Bring a first aid kit that includes these items:
of world it
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■ Tweezers■ Cotton balls■ Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever■ Bee-sting neutralizers
Review safety rules and tips with everyone in your work group before each outdoorproject.
The League recommends that groups never get into a stream when the water is at floodstage or is flowing much more swiftly than normal. It is better to delay monitoring orcleanup projects than to risk personal harm. Water should always be below the kneelevel of the people who will be in the water. Remember that the knee level of childrenmay be much lower than the knee level of adults. Avoid steep and slippery banks.
When in contact with water, keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth, as not
all pollution can be seen or smelled, and waterborne diseases are often transferred by
League of America
way of eyes or mouth. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after
707 Conservation Lane
being in contact with stream or river water. You may also want to bring antibacterial
hand gel to the field site for use immediately after water contact.
Phone: (301) 548-0150
If the water is posted as unsafe for human contact or
■ If you come upon a snake at close range, simply
appears to be severely polluted, (strong smell of
move away. The snake probably will leave the area
sewage or chemicals, unusual colors, lots of dead
when it no longer perceives you as a threat.
fish) do not touch the water. If these signs of severe
Remember, you are much bigger than the snake, and
pollution are not present, but you are unsure of condi-
it is more afraid of you than you are of it. Allow the
tions or would like additional protection, take the fol-
snake a chance to back off, and it usually will.
■ Wear rubber boots high enough to keep water
Most snakes associated with aquatic environments are
from coming in contact with your skin.
not poisonous. However, because it’s difficult to dis-
■ Wear heavy rubber gloves that go up to your
tinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous
shoulders (available at most automotive supply
snakes without getting too close, the best advice is to
stores). Surgical gloves will not work. They can be
stay away from them all. If a snake bite does occur,
punctured easily by snags or sharp objects, and they
are not long enough to protect your arms.
■ Elevate the bitten area. Do not apply ice or a
■ Wear a protective covering for your mouth such
tourniquet to the wound. Do not cut the wound
as a painter’s mask (available at most drugstores or
open or attempt to suck out the venom.
hardware stores). You can get sick if you breathe in
■ Remain calm. Take a few deep breaths and keep
movement to a minimum. Walk calmly to your
■ Report any pollution problems to your state’s
vehicle and have your partner carry your equip-
ment. ■ Remove all watches and jewelry if bitten on the
Other Areas of Concern
hand or arm. Snake venom will cause the bittenarea to swell.
Snakes can be a concern when you are in an
■ Seek immediate medical attention.
aquatic environment, especially slow-moving waterswith overhanging vegetation. To avoid an encounterwith a snake, observe the following rules:
■ Check rocks, logs, and stubs for snakes. Snakesmust get out of the water to dry their skin and willlie on flat surfaces exposed to sunlight.
■ If you have to approach the water through highgrass, thump the ground in front of you with a stick.
Snakes will feel the vibrations and move away.
Snakes are deaf and respond only to vibrations.
If you are allergic to any type of insects,
bring your antidotes or medicines. Ask other members
of your group about their allergies before you go to
the site. If a volunteer gets an insect bite that swells
up to an unusual size or has severe redness, seek med-
ical attention immediately.
Many people have concerns about West Nile virus.
Female mosquitoes transmit the virus primarilyamong birds. Occasionally, mosquitoes transfer thevirus from birds to humans, most of whom experienceno symptoms. About one in five infected people
develop West Nile fever, which resembles the flu.
Infections can be fatal in people with weak immunesystems, but this is rare. To avoid mosquito bites,wear long sleeves and pants. Avoid areas of standingwater during dawn and dusk, when mosquito activityis at its peak. Consider using mosquito repellants thatcontain DEET. Do not spray DEET underneathclothes. For more information on West Nile virus, seethe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency factsheet“Wetlands and West Nile Virus” online at
Black bears and grizzly bears live in forested
areas around the United States. Black bear encounters
are more prevalent in the eastern United States, whilegrizzlies may be encountered in the Northwest.
Ticks are prevalent in grassy or woody areas. It
is important for volunteers to check their bodies for
■ When in an area with the potential for bear
ticks. Feel along the scalp for any loosely attached
encounters, make sure you stay with a group of
bumps. If it is a tick, do not pull it out. Yanking the
people and make noise to alert the bear of your
tick may cause an infection if its head remains in the
presence. It is also a good idea to carry bear pepper
scalp. Grasp the tick with tweezers and gently twist it
counterclockwise for several rotations until the tick is
■ If you see a bear and it does not see you, quickly
free. Swab the area with hydrogen peroxide to clean
leave the area while keeping your distance from the
the area. If you want to kill the tick, burn it with a
bear, giving it plenty of room to escape should you
match or suffocate it with nail polish or petroleum
jelly after it has been removed from the skin.
■ If you encounter a bear and it sees you, do notrun. You cannot outrun a bear. Stay calm and slowly
One type of tick, called a deer tick, can carry a serious
back away from the bear. Look for an escape route
illness called Lyme disease. Deer ticks resemble com-
that gives the bear plenty of space; try to stay out of
mon ticks except they are much smaller (only a few
its “comfort zone” and avoid direct eye contact.
millimeters across.) Symptoms of Lyme disease
■ Climbing trees to escape is a common suggestion,
include chills, malaise, and fever. Often the first sign
but be aware that bears can follow you up a tree.
of Lyme disease is a bull’s-eye shaped mark on the
■ If a bear should charge you, do not run. Drop to
skin, but this is not always present. Treatment requires
the ground and cover your head, face, and neck
a shot of prescribed antibiotics. If not treated, this dis-
with your arms for protection. If you are wearing a
ease can remain in your body for a lifetime. If you
backpack, make sure it faces the direction of the
exhibit any of the symptoms, it is recommended that
bear so it can absorb punishment from any attack.
you see your doctor and ask for a Lyme disease test.
Bear attacks are often “hit and run” and don’t lastvery long. Lay motionless and give the bear time to
Alligators and turtles:
In southern states, you may
leave the area. Seek medical treatment as soon as
encounter alligators and large aquatic turtles. These
animals are not dangerous if left alone. Alligators
■ If you feel an attack is predatory, disregard the
under 18 inches in length are juveniles and may be
above strategy and fight back with everything you
near their mothers. Female alligators are very protec-
have. This also applies to mountain lion attacks.
tive and may be dangerous. If you see alligators, leave
Seek medical treatment immediately and report the
the area immediately. Snapping turtles and soft-
shelled turtles usually will move out of an area if the
■ Never go near a cub because the mother bear is
water is disturbed. Although turtles are not poisonous,
always nearby and will become very aggressive in
treat a turtle bite with the same care as a snake bite.
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