TULSA, Okla. — Park rangers at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District lakes will be armed with something new this Fourth of July. In support of its “Learn to Swim Well” initiative, rangers will be armed with details of where visitors can find free or reduced-price swim lessons.
Rangers routinely interact with lake visitors, and this holiday week, they will be asking them if they can swim to survive. If the answer is ‘”no,” the ranger can share with the visitor where they can find swim lessons in their community. The Tulsa District USACE partnered with the American Red Cross to compile the list of where and when swim lessons are available.
Swimming to survive is defined as the ability to enter into deep water, tread water for one minute, and swim 55 yards. Swimming well is important because most people who drown never intended to go in the water. When a non-swimmer unexpectedly falls into deep water, there is a gasp reflex that causes the victim to ingest water and that in turn causes panic; the victim can quickly, and quietly, go under. An adult can drown in 60 seconds, a child in 20 seconds.
Already this recreation season, six people have drowned at Tulsa District lakes. Three went under after unexpectedly entering deep water. One victim fell in the water while fishing, and two others tried to swim across open water when their small fishing boat took on water and capsized. Of the six victims, only one had on a life jacket but took it off in the water.
Rangers will work to educate the public that swimming in lakes and rivers is not the same as swimming in a pool. Swimmers can tire quickly in open water, and conditions can rapidly change.
The USACE Tulsa District will continue to encourage visitors to wear a life jacket when on or around the water. Even if a person can swim, they should wear a life jacket because accidents happen. A life jacket provides flotation and time for rescue.
The Corps’ goal is always to have zero public fatalities. Although this goal is already unreachable, the Corps is still striving to prevent accidents by working with safety partners to encourage life jacket use and swimming abilities. The Corps wants the public to have a safe and enjoyable time while recreating at their lakes.
The USACE Tulsa District provides recreation opportunities for more than 22.5 million visitors annually at 38 lakes. For more information on USACE Tulsa District recreation sites and activities, visit www.swt.usace.army.mil