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Posted 5/25/2017

Release no. 17-022

Erica Skolte
561-801-5734 (cell)

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

“Expect the unexpected. Always wear a life jacket whenever you are in or around the water,” said Tammy Cleveland, lead park ranger at the South Florida Operations Office in Clewiston. “Remember that we have free 'loaner' life jackets available at our recreation areas to ensure you have a safe visit while boating or just swimming.”

In the last 10 years, 88 percent of all Corps public water-related fatalities were men and 68 percent were between the ages of 20 and 60, according to data compiled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Operations Center for Water Safety. The center also reports that 84 percent of all public water-related fatalities involved people not wearing life jackets and found that the greatest number of water-related fatalities involved people swimming in areas not designated for swimming. In addition, 27 percent of boating fatalities involved people falling overboard.

People who drown often never intended to be in the water; they unexpectedly fell 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.

Even a strong swimmer can drown from a fall into cold water because it causes an involuntary gasp (or torso) reflex. A life jacket can help save your life by allowing time for rescue. It may come as a surprise, but some researchers believe cold water is anything lower than the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, so this applies in Florida as well.

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. At all Corps beaches you swim at your own risk, and adults should keep an eye on children at all times. You may be surprised to learn that most people drown within 10 feet of safety. Many shorelines at Corps lake and river projects have drop-offs and you can be in water over your head instantly or pulled under by the current. 

Always wear the right size and type of life jacket for the activity you are enjoying. Learn how to choose the right life jacket at http://www.uscgboating.org/assets/1/Publications/howtochoosetherightlifejacket_brochure.pdf and wear it. Life Jackets Worn…Nobody Mourns.

USACE is the nation’s largest federal provider of water-based outdoor recreation, managing more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states and hosting more than 250 million visits per year. They provide a diverse range of outdoor activities close to home and to people of all ages. For more information on Corps recreation sites and activities, visit www.CorpsLakes.us