Enjoy American's Waterways, Play it Safe and Return Home Alive

Published June 29, 2016

IOWA CITY – Before you head out on the water this Independence Day weekend, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) encourages you to remember to make sure you have proper safety equipment like a life jacket. It’s a safe practice to have a pre boating checklist to ensure that everybody will be safe out on the water. Always 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 into the water from a boat or dock. 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 more 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 how well of a swimmer you are you can get into trouble and be gone within seconds. It takes an average of 60 seconds for an adult to drown and just a brief 20 seconds for a child to drown. Swimming ability decreases with age.

Swim at the designated swim beach. These areas have been inspected to provide a safe swimming environment. At all USACE beaches you swim at your own risk so adults please watch your children, because most people drowned within 10 feet of safety. Many shorelines at USACE lake and river projects have drop offs and you can be in the water over your head instantly or pulled under by the current.

Release no. 16-042