The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has recorded six water-related fatalities on its lakes since May 11, 2013. Five drowned, with alcohol use suspected in one death; one died when a vessel ran aground; none were wearing life jackets.
"We must do better. I cannot overemphasize the need to wear a life jacket when recreating on the water," said Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, Nashville District commander. "We want the public to enjoy our lakes, but to play it safe, and return home alive," DeLapp added.
Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death, yet the number of deaths by drowning could be reduced drastically if everyone would wear a life jacket. Statistics show that 89 percent of those who drown at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes and rivers may have survived if they had worn a life jacket.
"Seemingly calm waters below our dams can become violently turbulent with a sudden discharge of water, making them extremely hazardous," DeLapp cautions.
Here are some safety tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July holiday.
Boating under the influence
Not only is this extremely dangerous, but it is unlawful to operate any sail or powered vessel while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs. A blood-alcohol level of .08% is presumed under the influence and can result in fines up to $2,500 on the first offense. If you drink, don’t drive—ashore or afloat.
Swimming in open water
Even the best swimmers can misjudge their skills and abilities while swimming in a lake or river. Conditions can change quickly in open water. You could find yourself in a situation where you are fighting for your life with no chance of survival. So before entering the water, please wear a life jacket.
Watch your children at all times
While on or near the water watch your children at all times. It only takes 20 seconds for a child to drown. National Water Safety Program Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pam Doty stated "Usually people believe that if someone is drowning they will yell for help and that is not the case at all. Several people drown every year within 10 feet of safety because the people around them did not recognize the four signs of drowning." They include head back, mouth open gasping for air, no yelling or sound, and arms slapping the water like they are trying to climb out of the water. Properly rescuing someone should never include contact with them unless you are a trained lifeguard. Throw them something that floats to pull them to safety.
Boaters or those swimming near boats should be aware that carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible, and silent killer emitted by exhausts of motors burning fossil fuels. It can accumulate anywhere in or around a boat, regardless of the type. It is heavier than air and lighter than water, so it floats on the water’s surface. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include eye irritation, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors on and inside your boat. Do not let those you love swim under or around the boarding platform because this silent killer could be waiting for them.
If you need a place to recreate during the holiday, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is the Nation’s largest provider of outdoor recreation, managing more than 420 lake and river projects in 43 states. To find a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project near you visit www.CorpsLakes.us or http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Locations/Lakes.aspx.