Before you head out this Memorial Day weekend for a day on or near the water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at Blue Marsh Lake encourages you to make sure you have life jackets for everyone and that you wear them.
In the last ten years, 88 percent of all USACE public water-related fatalities were men and 68 percent were between the ages of 20 and 60, according to data compiled by the USACE National Operations Center for Water Safety. The center also reports that 84 percent of all public water-related fatalities involved people not wearing life jackets and found that 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. The majority of these fatalities 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. Early in the season, the water temperature at Blue Marsh Lake is in the 60-70 degree range.
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. Even strong swimmers 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.
Here are some important reminders:
- Swim at a designated swim beach. These areas have been inspected to provide a safe swimming environment. At all USACE beaches, visitors swim at their own risk so adults please watch your children, because most people drown 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.
- Always wear the right size and type of life jacket for the activity you are enjoying. In 2017, Blue Marsh Lake developed a life jacket loaner program. Life jackets are provided to the public for use at the lake and are to be returned at the end of the day. The life jackets are available at the Dry Brooks Day Use Area, the Dry Brooks boat ramp, and the State Hill boat ramp on a first come first served basis to make sure boaters and swimmers are using the correct size U.S. Coast Guard approved floatation devices.
Blue Marsh Lake is expecting large crowds this weekend as folks head out to the lake to start the summer season. Have fun, but remember safety in all activities this weekend, around the water, food safety, keeping an eye on your children, and using grills. As a reminder, fireworks, alcohol, and pets in the picnic areas below parking lot F of the Dry Brooks Day Use Area are prohibited at Blue Marsh Lake. Due to the heat, crowds and long days, it is best to leave pets at home.
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 250 million visits per year. 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.