News Releases

Play It Safe When You’re In, On or Near The Water

Published May 26, 2017

PORTLAND, ORE. Before you head out for a day around water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reminds you and everyone in your group to wear a life jacket.

In the last 10 years, 84 percent of water-related fatalities on Corps land involved people not wearing life jackets, with the greatest number occurring in areas not designated for swimming, according to data compiled by the Corps’ National Operations Center for Water Safety. Eighty-eight percent of all such fatalities were men, while 68 percent were between the ages of 20 and 60. In addition, 27 percent of boating fatalities involved people falling overboard. 

Most who drowned never intended to enter the water; they unexpectedly fell from a boat or dock. Falling into cold water triggers an involuntary gasp response, which causes you to breathe in water whether you want to or not. Breathing in a half-cup of water is enough to cause drowning.

Even a strong swimmer can drown from a fall into cold water. It takes an average of one minute for an adult to drown and just 20 seconds for a child to drown. Wearing a life jacket keeps you afloat until you can regain control of your breathing.

Only swim in areas designated for swimming. These areas have been inspected to provide a safe swimming environment. You swim at your own risk at all Corps beaches, so adults should always watch their children when they are around water.

Always wear the right size and type of life jacket for the activity you are enjoying. Learn more at

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District manages 18 lakes and reservoirs and offers recreation at 135 parks on the water within the state of Oregon. More than 10 million people visit our locations annually to experience the diverse range of outdoor activities we offer to people of all ages. For more information on Portland District’s recreation opportunities, visit

Jeffrey Henon

Release no. 17-015