HERMITAGE, Tenn. (Aug. 12, 2021) – J. Percy Priest Lake park rangers are teaming up with Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort every Friday for another exciting summer of water safety education. From noon until 2 p.m., rangers hand out orange goodie bags filled with various water safety trinkets and informational pamphlets.
Rangers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District set up their booth at the center of the waterpark attracting park goers with their friendly smiles and bright orange waterproof safety bags. As kids and their parents walk by curiously wondering what’s going on, rangers get the opportunity to share information the kids might not get a chance to hear at home or at school.
Natural Resources Specialist and Park Ranger Robin Witt said, “The importance of doing this at Nashville Shores is to make sure that everyone is aware of the dangers of being on the water and making sure they know they need to be wearing a life jacket because it can save lives.”
As kids run up for their water safety bags, rangers use the opportunity to discuss the importance of wearing life jackets and staying safe while on the water.
“I love going into the community and getting the water safety information out, partly because I think it serves a bigger purpose of making sure that people are safe on our lakes and our waterways which is very important and I know it does save lives,” said Witt.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages one through four, and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages one through 14. There are an estimated 3,960 fatal unintentional drownings each year in the United States, equating to 11 drowning deaths per day.
“Every year on the lake there’s something that goes wrong so we’re always here trying to promote safety to children, that way when they’re growing up and they’re going out on the lakes by themselves they know what to do to help mitigate any sort of situation that can occur on the lake,” said Student Trainee Park Ranger John Poston.
By sharing water safety information to children in the community, the rangers pique the awareness of their parents and encourage preventive measures to keep families alive and safe while on the water.
Natural Resource Specialist Ranger Andrew Harrell said, “It gets the material into all of the homes because first it starts with the kids and hopefully, they show their parents some of the stuff and maybe they’ll learn from it, too.”
The state of Tennessee has more than 900 miles of waterway throughout the state according to USGS.gov. The Tennessee River Basin, which several Tennessee lakes and rivers connect to, covers an area of 40,890 square miles stretching across most of Middle Tennessee.
In the Cumberland River Basin, the Nashville District operates 10 lakes, including numerous recreation areas and swim beaches. The lakes are filled with boats and people recreating, so it’s important to be watchful of children and others nearby.
There have been eight fatalities at Nashville District lakes this year and one fatality at J. Percy Priest Lake. Since the Corps impounded the lake, there have been 181 drownings. Of those, only four were wearing life jackets.
“We have rivers everywhere. There’s a lot of people who have a river or a stream going through their backyard,” said Poston, “and because it’s in their backyard they never thought anything of it, but that’s still moving water and that can be dangerous really quickly.”
As kids and their families find alternative outdoor fun due to COVID-19 many of these lakes and rivers have seen an increase in visitors, making it more likely for accidents to occur.
“We get called to emergency situations sometimes where someone has drowned or is struggling to swim, Witt said, “so being able to promote the message of water safety on J. Percy Priest Lake and other lakes makes our jobs as rangers a lot easier because we’re not having to go out and see tragic and avoidable situations.”
Preventing unintentional deaths by drowning is one of the rangers’ top priorities at Corps lakes.
“I love going into the community and getting the water safety information out partly because I think it serves a bigger purpose of making sure that people are safe on our lakes and our water ways. It’s very important and I know it does save lives,” Witt said.
It’s important that parents encourage their children to take preventable measures by wearing life jackets and staying at safe water levels for their height and swim skill level while on the water. It’s also important to keep an eye on children when at waterparks since drowning can occur within 20 to 60 seconds according to stopdrowningnow.org. Twenty-three percent of child drownings happen during a family gathering near a pool, so remaining alert at places like Corps lakes, Nashville Shores and other waterparks can save a life.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)