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Water Activities

The Office of Global Health & Safety (OGHS) places great emphasis on the safety and well-being of all participants involved in Duke-sponsored programs. When it comes to water-based activities, there are inherent risks that need to be carefully considered. Please review the following guidelines and recommendations to ensure the safety of your program participants.

General Recommendations

OGHS recommends against including swimming and water-based activities (including transportation by boat) as part of any Duke-sponsored program due to the inherent risks associated with such activities, such as unpredictable weather conditions, strong currents, underwater hazards, and wild animals.

In rare cases where no other transportation option is available, transportation by boat may be considered. In these cases, the boat should be equipped with adequate safety measures, including life vests, fire extinguishers, and emergency communication equipment. All participants must always wear life vests and receive proper training on emergency procedures, the use of emergency equipment, and familiarity with the boat’s operation and safety features.

Participant Safety

OGHS strongly discourages participants from engaging in water activities during their free time. We urge all participants to familiarize themselves with local safety guidelines and to exercise caution when swimming or engaging in other water activities.

Tips for mitigating risks associated with water activities:

      • Never swim alone.
      • Be aware of weather conditions and the potential for changes in weather.
      • Use appropriate gear for the environment.
      • Stay aware of water conditions (rip currents, tides, etc.) and take note of warning signs and flags.


Program Administrator Responsibilities

Program administrators are responsible for conducting thorough risk assessments for any water activities, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:

      • Ensuring that all participants receive proper training and instruction on water safety measures.
      • Providing clear guidelines and expectations regarding participant behavior during water activities.
      • Establishing emergency protocols and communicating protocols to all participants.
      • Regularly monitoring weather conditions and making informed decisions regarding the feasibility of planned water activities.
      • Maintaining open lines of communication with OGHS and promptly reporting any incidents or concerns.

As program administrators, it is essential to familiarize yourself with relevant external resources and policies related to water activities. Please refer to the following resources for additional information and guidance:

Center for Disease Control’s Water Safety Tips: Research and share tips around water safety with participants.

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Boating Checklist: Access the North Carolina Resources Commission’s Boating Checklist for comprehensive boating safety information and guidelines.

NOAA’s Rip Current Survival Guide: Learn how to identify a rip current and survive if caught in one while swimming using this resource from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding water activities or need further guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact us at The safety of your program participants is our top priority.