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    Water Survival Lessons

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    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    An Army General once told me a heartwarming true story he had read about in one of the “Chicken Soup for the…Soul” books. It has been awhile since I heard it, but to summarize what I recall, it was about a soldier who accidentally ended up in the water somehow during one of the World Wars. I think the soldier may have been a pilot who was shot down and he ended up in the water, but he was rescued thanks to the fact that he was wearing a life jacket. When the soldier returned home he was telling his family the story about how a life jacket had saved his life. He found out then that his mother had been working in a factory making life jackets during the war. The miraculous part of the story was that the soldier and his mother figured out that based on some numbers he had seen on his life jacket that it had actually been made by his mother.

    When survivors of water-related incidents talk about the circumstances that led to them almost dying, they often say “it happened so fast” and “I had no time to put on a life jacket before I ended up in the water.” One 72 year old who survived a fall overboard after hitting a stump tells everyone, “Always wear your life preserver [jacket] while boating and never, never go fishing alone.”

    When recreating on the water in a vessel of any type, you never know when things like unseen underwater hazards, mechanical failure, operator error, rogue waves, unexpected bad weather, distracted operators, or something as simple as losing your balance can cause you to fall overboard and drown. The shock of entering water suddenly, especially when the water is cold, causes an involuntary gasp reflex that could make you inhale water and drown.

    The stories from survivors of water-related tragedies remind me of the many more people I know who have sadly lost a loved one to a water-related incident. Their struggles mourning the loss of their loved ones daily is something I hope to never personally experience and that affects my water-based recreation behavior.

    When I was younger, I thought because I could swim that wearing a life jacket while boating and swimming wasn’t necessary, but research shows that most people who drown reportedly knew how to swim. Many people don’t realize that swimming in a lake or any natural waters is much more difficult than in a pool. There is no good excuse to not wear a life jacket nowadays. Since I can swim, I wear an inflatable, belt-style life jacket. It’s so comfortable I hardly know I have it on, but it’s there whenever I may need it.

    The nation’s leading provider of water-based recreation is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with more than 400 lakes in 43 states. Their statistical trends on water-related fatalities kept since 1998 average 89% were not wearing a life jacket and 88% were men.

    Something that contributes to the increase in life jacket survival events are the states and individual lakes that have implemented life jacket wear requirements for adults, as well as children. Those locations show low fatality rates so their laws and policies have saved lives. States had to implement laws to get more people to wear seat belts and that undoubtedly has saved many lives, so perhaps it may take life jacket wear laws and regulations to save more lives on the water.

    Those of us working together to promote the Life Jackets Worn…Nobody Mourns campaign know that wearing a life jacket drastically increases someone’s chances of surviving a water-related incident, but there are thousands of people who mourn the loss of a family member or friend to drowning every year. Wearing a life jacket whenever you’re in, on, or near the water helps ensure that you always return home safely to your loved ones so #PleaseWearIt.



    Date Taken: 05.05.2020
    Date Posted: 05.05.2020 18:59
    Story ID: 369285
    Location: US

    Web Views: 63
    Downloads: 0