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Posted 6/26/2013

Release no. 13-038

Eric Hamilton

PORTLAND, Ore. - – Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death, yet the number of deaths by drowning could be reduced drastically if everyone would wear a life jacket.

Statistics show that 89 percent of those who drown at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes and rivers would have survived if they had been wearing life jackets. Here are some safety tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day holiday.

Swimming in open water is different and more difficult than in a swimming pool. You may tire more quickly and danger comes in many forms: waves, currents, exhaustion, lack of experience or a decrease in abilities. You can find yourself in a situation where you are fighting for life without a chance of survival.

Even the best swimmers can misjudge their skills and abilities while swimming in a lake or river. Conditions can change quickly in open water, so before entering the water, please put on a life jacket. While wearing a life jacket, you will not use as much energy to swim, it will help you float and--most importantly--it will help ensure your safe return to those who love you. While on or near the water, watch your children at all times. It only takes 20 seconds for a child to drown.

Pam Doty, the National Water Safety Program Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said, “Usually, people believe that if someone is drowning, they will yell for help, and that is not the case at all. Several people drown every year within 10 feet of safety because the people around them did not recognize the signs of drowning.”

This tragic misunderstanding is because a drowning victim can look like someone is just playing in the water. Here's how to recognize the four signs of drowning:
  1. Head back; mouth open;
  2. Gasping for air;
  3. No yelling or sound; and
  4. Arms slapping the water, as if trying to climb out of the water.

Properly rescuing someone should never include contact, unless you are a trained lifeguard. Reach out to the victim with an object, to keep your distance, or throw them something that floats, and pull them to safety.

Boaters or those swimming near boats need to be aware of carbon monoxide--an odorless, invisible and silent killer, which can accumulate anywhere in or around any boat regardless of what type of boat it is. Because carbon monoxide is heavier than air and lighter than water, it floats on the water’s surface; inhaling carbon monoxide can be deadly.

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include eye irritation, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. Knowing these signs and what to do to prevent them can help you stay alive. 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. Avoid areas of your boat where exhaust fumes may be present. Do not let those you love swim under or around the boarding platform, because this carbon monoxide could be accumulating underneath; poisoning could occur quickly and quietly.

While having fun on the Fourth of July, remember these tips to help your safe return home to those who love you. If you're looking for a place to recreate during the holiday, check out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the nation’s largest provider of outdoor recreation. We manage more than 420 lake and river projects in 43 states. To find a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project near you, visit www.CorpsLakes.us. For recreation in Western Oregon, visit www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation.aspx. Find life jacket loaner stations and more water safety information at www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/WaterSafety.aspx.