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Letter: Wear a life jacket while on the water

Wear a life jacket while on the water

Before you head out for a day on or near the water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) encourages you to make sure you have life jackets for everyone and that they wear them.

On average, nine out of 10 people who drowned at a USACE lake, a river project or on the Great Lakes didn’t wear a life jacket. Life jackets save lives by keeping you afloat and providing time for rescue.

Make sure you size it right and buckle it up. Children should not be put in a life jacket that is too big for them because it will slip over their head if they fall in the water and they could drown. Life jackets are categorized by a person’s weight so check the label and test it to make sure it fits snug.

Most people who drown never intended to be in the water; they unexpectedly fall from a boat or dock into the water. When this happens, a person will reflexively gasp and can inhale up to one liter of water and drown in less than a minute.

Others get into trouble swimming out to retrieve a boat that floated away, or swimming in association with a boat. Swimming in natural waters is not the same as swimming in a pool. Even strong swimmers can get into trouble and be gone within seconds. It takes an average of 60 seconds for an adult to drown and just 20 seconds for a child to drown. Swimming ability also decreases with age.

Swim at a designated swim beach. These areas have been inspected to provide a safe swimming environment. Adults, please watch your children, because most people drown within 10 feet of safety. Many shorelines at USACE lake and river projects and in the Great Lakes have drop-offs and you can be in water over your head instantly or pulled under by the current.

Pam J. Doty, CIG, CIT

Manager, National Water Safety Program, USACE