Corps urges safety on the water

   Memorial Day marks the beginning of the 101 days of summer and traditionally serves as the official kick-off for the summer recreation season.   As the nation’s largest federal provider of water-based outdoor recreation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides its visitors a wide range of diverse and dynamic recreational opportunities, and the safety of these visitors is the Corps’ highest priority.

   Huntington District Commander Col. Robert Peterson takes water safety very seriously.  “The Corps of Engineers welcomes visitors to enjoy our beautiful lakes and recreation areas,” Peterson said.  “Our rangers spend a great deal of time talking to the public about the risks and offering advice on how to stay safe around water.”

   Each year about 6,000 drowning-related deaths occur in the U.S.  In fact, drowning is a leading cause of accidental death for children and the second leading cause of accidental deaths for persons 15-44 years of age. Drowning can also occur because people under-estimate the power of the water and over-estimate their swimming ability. Yet, it is possible — just by wearing a life jacket or taking other precautions — to prevent these deaths.

   To promote the importance of wearing life jackets, a number of Huntington District lakes have established life jacket loaner boards.   Visitors can borrow a life jacket while participating in water activities and then simply return the life jacket to the loaner station when finished.   

   Here are some safety tips from the Corps of Engineers to keep our visitors safe at our recreation areas over the Memorial Day holiday weekend and throughout the summer months.

     Watch your children – Research shows it only takes a child an average of 20 seconds to drown.  Don’t let children wander very far from adults and never let them go into the water.

     Alcohol and water activities don’t mix–Approximately one-third of all boating accidents and fatalities involve alcohol.  Drinking just one beer could impair balance, vision, judgment and reaction time. Combine alcohol consumption with boating fatigue – exposure to noise, vibration, sun, glare and wind – and the risk for boating accidents is significantly intensified.  

     Boaters should know the rules–Take appropriate safety classes, be familiar with governing state laws and have proper safety equipment onboard.  Wear a life jacket, don’t just carry one on board.  Don’t overload the boat.  File a float plan with a friend. 

     Respect the power of water–Surprisingly, two-thirds of drowning victims never intended to be in the water.  This is especially true in cases of people accidentally falling out of their boats while fishing.   If someone is in trouble, reach or throw a floatation device – don’t go in the water.  Don’t over-estimate your swimming skills.  Swim only in designated swimming areas.   Half of all drowning victims are alone when they drown so use the buddy system.  Take swimming lessons and learn to swim!

    An estimated 360 million people visit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas nationwide annually, and our District hosts more than 31 million visitors at our recreation areas.  We urge you to make water safety your top priority when using the nation’s waterways and lakes.   

    For more safety tips and interactive games, visit our water safety website at or contact the Public Affairs Office at 304-399-5353.

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