NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March, 3, 2016) — Every year thousands of
people in the United States mourn the loss of loved ones who could have
survived if they had been wearing a life jacket while spending time on or near
our nation’s waters. To heighten
awareness, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently launched a national water
safety campaign titled “Life Jackets Worn - Nobody Mourns.”
The Corps, in cooperation with the U. S. Army Corps of
Engineers Natural Resources and Education Foundation, a non-profit foundation
established to support Corps natural resources and recreation programs,
developed the campaign that specifically targets adult males.
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 that are not designated for swimming. Also, 27 percent of boating fatalities
involved people falling overboard.
“Life jackets do save lives and wearing your life jacket is
the number one thing to do that will keep you safe while boating, fishing, or
swimming,” said Mark Klimaszewski, water safety manager in the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers Nashville District’s Natural Resources Management Branch.
During the 2015 recreation season 14 people lost their
lives at the Nashville District’s 10 lakes in the Cumberland River basin. Of those, all were not wearing a life jacket,
Klimaszewski said life jackets save lives by keeping people
afloat and providing time for rescue after entering the water.
When selecting a life jacket, he said it’s important to
make sure people size it right and buckle it up. Children should not be put on a life jacket
that is too big 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 and it should be tested to make sure it fits
“If someone still doesn’t know how and when to wear a life
jacket, ask a park ranger at the lake who can help you get it right,”
Boaters, especially occupants of fishing boats, are often
observed not wearing life jackets when recreating on Corps lakes.
“Many fishermen don’t like to wear the life jacket while
they are fishing because it makes them uncomfortable,” said Nashville District
Park Ranger Richard Rice.
Last week, Rice recorded several public service
announcements that will be distributed this recreation season through social
media channels, the internet and local television stations.
“While we cannot control the individual actions of our 33
million annual visitors, we are doing everything we can to help them make wise,
but easy choices, that can save their lives when recreating on Corps
facilities,” said Rice.
Rice said at Corps lakes most people who drown never intended
to be in the water; accidents happen and they unexpectedly fall from a boat or slip
off a 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.
According to Rice, while patrolling rangers check to see if
boaters have U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets that is required for each
person aboard, if boats are overloaded or overpowered, and if they have the
required safety equipment.
“It’s our job to help protect the public on the water from
others and sometimes themselves, whenever possible,” said Rice.
Klimaszewski said along with wearing a life jacket, increased
education and voluntary compliance with water safety practices is preferable to
He said it’s important to operate a vessel safely and swim
within personal limits in approved areas. Be sure to swim with a friend or
buddy at all times, refrain from cliff diving, and always maintain safe
distances from dams during water releases.
“Losing a life is tragic and one death is one too many. So we cannot over-emphasize the need to wear
life jackets when on or around the water” said Klimaszewski.
The Corps also released a water
safety PSA for the campaign featuring the country music duo LoCash urging fans to be safe when recreating on U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers waterways with the “I Love This Life Jacket” message, a spinoff
from the title of their smash hit “I Love This Life.”
Everyone including the media is encouraged to
share the LoCash water safety PSA and #ILoveThisLifeJacket hashtag on social
media, websites and broadcast on television. The one minute PSA is
available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/usacewatersafety and on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System at http://www.dvidshub.net/unit/usace-ws.
USACE is the largest federal provider of water-based
outdoor recreation, managing more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states
and hosting more than 370 million visits per year. The Nashville District operates 10 lakes and
manages 146 recreation areas campgrounds in the Cumberland River Basin. Boating, fishing and swimming are warm water
favorites but sadly more than 150 people drown at Corps parks each year.
The USACE National
Operations Center for Water Safety offer these safety reminders when on or near
• A person’s swimming ability generally decreases with
age. Regardless of how well a person swims
he or she could have to fight for his or her life due to conditions such as
waves, current, or exhaustion. Swimming in a lake or river is not like swimming
in a pool so wearing a properly-fitted life jacket is critical. Many people
drown when they attempt to retrieve an inflatable toy or their boat that has drifted
away because they cannot swim as far as they think they can. Also, most people
do not have the strength or skill to get back into a small boat from the water
without wearing a life jacket.
• Even if someone thinks he or she is a strong swimmer, it
is possible to drown by falling into cold water because it causes an
involuntary gasp (or torso) reflex, so a life jacket is the only thing that can
help save a person’s life and give more time to be rescued. Some researchers
believe cold water is anything less than “normal” body temperature, which is 98.6.
• While boating a person can develop “boater’s hypnosis,”
which is a condition where sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion causes
fatigue and slows a person’s reaction time much like the effects of alcohol.
Combining this condition with the use of alcohol or drugs reduces a person’s
coordination, judgment and reaction time even more. Additionally, if a person
swims or falls underwater while under the influence of alcohol or drugs they
can suffer from an inner ear condition that causes them to become disoriented
and unaware of which direction is up or down.
Misjudging swimming ability, gasp reflex, boater’s
hypnosis, alcohol and drug usage and thinking nothing will happen are just a
few of the reasons why even strong swimmers should always wear a life jacket.
The best way to lower the risk of drowning is to wear a life jacket, so please
wear it for loved ones. Visit www.PleaseWearIt.com for
more information on water safety and to download free campaign materials and
remember… “Life Jackets Worn - Nobody Mourns.”
Boaters should wear life jackets, avoid alcohol, and boat
with a friend. Always check the capacity
plate and don’t overload a boat. Let someone know the plans for travel on the
water to include time of departure and return.
In 2015 more than 33 million people recreated at Lake
Barkley, Cheatham Lake, Old Hickory Lake, J. Percy Priest Lake, Cordell Hull
Lake, Center Hill Lake, Dale Hollow Lake, Lake Cumberland, Laurel River Lake
and Martins Fork Lake in the Nashville District.
“Our safety record is pretty good given that we have more
visitors every year than even Disney World,” Klimaszewski said. “But one life lost is tragic. So please wear
your life jacket and be aware of what is going on around you at all times. The Corps wants you to have fun but be safe
so you can return home safely at the end of the day.”
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 370 million visits per year. With 90 percent
of these recreation areas within 50 miles of metropolitan areas they provide a
diverse range of outdoor activities close to home and to people of all ages.
Visit http://www.CorpsLakes.us/watersafety for
more information that could save your life or the life of someone you love.
(Mark Rankin, Nashville District Public Affairs,
contributed to this story. 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)