Stay Safe for Memorial Day!

Memorial Day weekend is considered the kick-off to summer and that means millions of Americans will visit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) lands and waters for the holiday. Park rangers and volunteers will be working this weekend and all summer to increase visitor’s awareness of the importance of practicing sensible and thoughtful activities in and around USACE waters.

 In 2011, 197 people lost their lives while visiting USACE lands and waters, with the majority of these tragedies occurring in and around water. This year USACE officials are working to reduce the number of fatalities at the more than 2,500 USACE-managed recreation areas nationwide. Additional signage will be placed at USACE-managed recreation areas, and park personnel will be stressing the importance of water safety when talking with visitors during this summer season.

 People of all ages are strongly encouraged to practice water safety this summer season. Before you head in or around the water consider these five water safety facts:

  • Expect the unexpected – Accidents happen; prepare by learning to swim well enough to make it at least 40 yards. When a non-swimmer unexpectedly falls into deep water there is a gasp reflex that causes the victim to ingest water and that in turn causes panic; the victim can quickly, and quietly, go under.
  • Wear a life jacket – By providing time to be rescued, it will help ensure you survive an unexpected fall into the water. An adult can drown in 60 seconds. It takes a strong swimmer 10 minutes to put on a life jacket after entering the water.
  • Know your swimming abilities – Safety professional Richard Hawk estimates that 93 percent of people who go swimming can’t swim more than 40 yards, if at all. Be aware that swimming in natural waters is different from swimming in a pool, and swimming ability decreases with age. If you can’t swim the length of a pool, you can’t make it across a lake.
  • Alcohol and water is a deadly combo – Alcohol induces an inner ear condition (caloric labyrinthitis) that will cause an individual to become disoriented when underwater and not realize which way is up.
  • Understand “boater’s hypnosis” – It is a condition brought on by the mixture of sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion experienced during a day of boating. It causes fatigue and reduces reaction time, especially when combined with alcohol.

 USACE is the nation’s largest federal provider of outdoor and water-based recreation, managing more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states and hosting more than 370 million visits per year. With 90 percent of these recreation areas within 50 miles of metropolitan areas they provide 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.

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