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Posted 5/26/2016

Release no. 16-038


ROCK ISLAND, IL — Before heading out for a day on or near the water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Rock Island District, encourages everyone to make sure life jackets are available and worn. Remember, Life Jackets Worn…Nobody Mourns. 

In the last 10 years, 88 percent of all USACE public water-related fatalities were men and 68 percent were between the ages of 20 and 60, according to data compiled by the USACE 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. 

Several people who drown 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 a life by allowing time for rescue. Some researchers believe cold water is anything lower than normal body temperature of 98.6°F. 

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. Regardless of a swimmer’s strength, trouble can occur 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. All USACE beaches are “swim at your own risk” so adults should watch children, because most people drowned within 10 feet of safety. Many shorelines at USACE lake and river projects have drop offs and meaning a swimmer can be in water over their head instantly or pulled under by the current.  

Life Jackets Worn…Nobody Mourns. Always wear the right size and type of life jacket to help ensure a safe return home. Learn more at www.PleaseWearIt.com. 

The Rock Island District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the largest provider of outdoor recreation in the state of Iowa and manages 97 recreation sites in its five-state region. They provide a diverse range of outdoor activities close to home and to people of all ages. For more information on USACE recreation sites and activities, visit www.CorpsLakes.us.