U.S. Army Corps of Engineers emphasizes water safety this Memorial Day

Fort Worth District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published May 27, 2022

With summer in full swing, water activities are a great way to beat the heat. Although fun, these activities have an unfortunate downside of potential mishaps and drownings when safety is not placed at the forefront. Remember to know before you go, learn how to assist a drowning victim, never boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and as always, WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET!

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District, continues its ongoing program to decrease accidents and fatalities at its area lakes by encouraging visitors to have fun, stay safe, and return home alive during the summer recreation season.

In 2021, 20.5 million visitors enjoyed fishing, boating, swimming and other activities at Fort Worth District’s 25 area lakes and parks, down from 25 million visitors in pre-Covid 2018. While 10 visitors lost their lives in at this point in 2018, nine visitors have already died in the first five months of 2022. This statistic demonstrates that visitors need to be aware of the dangers lurking around them, especially in the water.

Swimming in open water is more difficult than in a swimming pool. Statistics show that 90 percent of those who drown at USACE lakes and rivers may have survived if they had worn a life jacket. Although boating incidents have been the leading cause of fatalities at Corps lakes in the past, in recent years, Fort Worth District has seen more swimming and wading accidents. These incidents are often due to sudden drop-off and swimmers misjudging the water while swimming and boating. 

If you see someone in trouble in the water, remember, “Reach or throw, don’t go.” Reach for the person with a pole, a long stick, a boat paddle, even a towel, to reduce the chance the panicked victim will drag you under.

If you can’t find something to reach someone in trouble, or if the person is too far to reach, throw something that floats, like a life jacket, life board or lifebuoy. Even a small, closed water cooler can assist in keeping someone afloat long enough to get more help for a rescue.

“Obviously no one plans to drown when they head out for a fun day at the lake, so it’s important to expect the unexpected,” said Col. Jonathan Stover, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District. “An essential item of your packing list should include a life jacket for anyone who will be in or near the water. And an essential action is to ensure that you and your loved ones wear life jackets properly by fastening the straps and zippers.”

While having a blast this holiday and summer, here are some water safety tips to help ensure you return home safely to those you love:

  • Wear a life jacket.
    • Statistics show that 90 percent of those who drown at USACE lakes and rivers may have survived if they had worn a life jacket.
    • Drowning is the nation’s second leading cause of accidental death.
    • Accidents happen, even to responsible boaters. A life jacket can provide time for rescue.
  • Know your swimming ability.
    • Swimming in open water is more difficult than in a swimming pool because a swimmer can tire more quickly and get into trouble.
    • Conditions can change quickly in open water.
    • Swim in designated areas and wear a life jacket. A life jacket will help conserve energy and provide flotation.
  • Be a “Water Watcher.”
    • When on or near the water watch your children.
    • A child can drown in 20 seconds
    • Drowning happens quickly and quietly. A drowning victim’s head will be back, they will be gasping for air, they will not be yelling, and their arms will be slapping the water as though trying to climb out of the water. 
  • Avoid exhaust fumes around boats.
    • Carbon monoxide, an invisible killer, can accumulate anywhere in or around boats regardless of what type of boat.  Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors on and inside your boat.  Maintain a fresh circulation of air through and around your boat at all times. 
    • Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include eye irritation, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness.  Know the signs and stay alive. 
    • Avoid areas around boats where exhaust fumes may be present. Do not let friends swim under or around the boarding platform where fumes can accumulate.

Visit the Fort Worth District social media at: https://about.me/usacefortworth

Bobby Petty

Release no. 22-015