Enjoy America’s Waterways, Play It Safe and Return Home Alive

Published June 1, 2016

Huntington, W.Va. - Before you head out for a day on or near the water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) encourages you to make sure you have life jackets for everyone and that you wear them. Remember, “Life Jackets Worn… Nobody Mourns.”

In the last 10 years, 84 percent of all public water-related fatalities involved people not wearing life jackets, according to data compiled by the USACE National Operations Center for Water Safety. 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 your 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 how strong 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 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.  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 water over your 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 that you return home safely. Learn more at PleaseWearIt.com.

USACE is the nation’s largest federal provider of water-based outdoor recreation, managing more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states and hosting more than 335 million visits per year. It provides 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.

Public Affairs Office

Release no. PA 16-027