Why you should wear a lifejacket

Studies repeatedly tell us that 90% of people who drown while boating were not wearing a lifejacket.

Most of the time there were lifejackets available on the boat, but when trouble happens it is too late to get them on.

9 out of 10 drowning victims: photo of a poster that says 9 out of 10 drowning victims were not wearing a lifejacket

You can find lifejackets designed for swimmers and non-swimmers, for all types of water activites. They are easy to put on and some models are designed to turn most unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water.

Some have more bouyancy than others. The size of lifejacket you wear depends on your weight and size. Choose one that is U.S. Coast Guard approved. Wear it properly, including fastening all zippers, snaps and/or ties.

two thirds of drowning victims are good swimmers: poster that says two thirds of drowning victims are good swimmers, showing a lifejacket floating at the surface of the water with bubbles rising from below

As the California Department of Waterways poster below says:

Wear a lifejacket and insist everyone on your boat wears one.

If it’s your boat, it’s your responsibility.

heros wear lifejackets: a poster with a rescuer hanging from a helicopter that says heroes wear lifejackets

Alcohol was involved in about one third of drowning deaths.

Lifejackets are not just for boating. In the American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor’s Manual we read:

“Young children and anyone who cannot swim well should wear a lifejacket whenever they are in, on, or around the water.

Even in public pools or waterparks, people who cannot swim well should wear a life jacket.

Life jackets are not a substitute for close supervision. Young children and poor swimmers need close supervision at all times. Whenever children are in, on or around the water, a responsible individual should be designated to provide constant supervision and stay within arm’s reach of the child is a poor swimmers, even if the child is wearing a lifejacket.”

With a lifejacket on you can also conserve body heat while awaiting rescue in cold water. If by yourself, use the HELP position —the heat escape lessening posture. When two or more people wearing life jackets find themselves in cold water, the huddle position will help them conserve body heat while awaiting rescue.

If you can reach safety with a few strokes, do so. If not, float in place in the HELP or Huddle position(s) and wait for help. Do not use the HELP or Huddle position(s) in moving water.

(Fremont Union High School District coaches Kiernan Raffo, J C Hovland, Jill Borges and Jeremy Kitchen posed for the next two photos.)

help position: HELP (heat escape lessening posture)Position

    1.Draw your knees up to your chest.

    2.Keep your face forward and out of the water.

    3.Hold your upper arms at your sides, and hold your lower arms against or across your chest.

huddle position: Huddle Position

    1. With two people, put your arms around each other so that your chests are together.

    2. With three or more people, put your arms over each other’s shoulders so that the sides of your chests are together. Children or elderly persons should be placed in the middle of the huddle.

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from the Yosemite Search and Rescue blog

True Confessions of a Rescuee

September 13, 2016

“The following incident was provided to us from a visitor who wished to share his near-tragedy in the hopes of others avoiding a similar experience. We appreciate the contributor’s candor but are especially grateful that he survived to tell his story. For anonymity, we will refer to the contributor as Rob.

The story begins when Rob receives an inflatable standup paddleboard as a gift. The salesperson recommends a leash (a coiled cord connecting the paddler’s ankle to the paddleboard to prevent separation if the paddler falls off the board). Rob, considering himself an intermediate-level paddleboarder on Southern California waters, disregards this advice.

On August 5, Rob vacations at Yosemite and launches his paddleboard on Tenaya Lake with his six-year-old son seated on the board. Rob’s son is wearing a child’s life jacket (PFD), which is required by law. Rob straps his own PFD to the board and does not wear it (as allowed by law). The beach is crowded with visitors.

Not uncommon for Yosemite, afternoon winds pick up and create wind chop on the lake. Rob decides to turn the board around and return to shore.

During the turn and with the wind now at Rob’s back, Rob falls from the board and separates from it. Rob tries to catch his board but the wind blows it away from him faster than he can swim to it. Rob realizes he cannot catch the board, which still has his son on it, as well as his own PFD. The water is cool. Moreover, Tenaya Lake is over 8,000 feet in elevation and while most people will not feel altitude illness at this elevation, anyone who isn’t acclimated will tire more quickly than at lower elevations.
In short, Rob is experiencing exhaustion and he is still about 200 feet from the shore. More to the point, Rob is beginning the drowning process. Out of options, he begins to yell for help and encourage his now-frightened son to do the same. Rob is starting to slip beneath the water.

Drowning is Rob’s probable outcome but three off-duty Yosemite emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and a triathlete are on the beach and respond to their calls for help. The triathlete reaches Rob first, followed by two of the EMTs with a floatation device, and they help Rob safely return to the beach. The third EMT assists Rob’s son back to shore.

This near tragedy ends safely but if Rob had been further from shore or the rescuers were not at the beach at that time, this might have ended differently.

LESSONS LEARNED:

One, in Rob’s words, always wear—do not just bring along—a PFD. Rob’s experience is very typical for small craft; things happen suddenly and if you are not properly wearing a PFD when it goes wrong, it is unlikely you will have time to find it and put it on. In short, skipping the simple step of wearing your PFD might cost you your life.
Two, Rob also points out the importance of wearing an ankle leash when operating a paddleboard. Weather can change quickly and if you fall off your board, you may not be able to catch it.”

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see also: rogue or sneaker waves

Water safety

A sculpture on a roof in Jackson, Wyoming of bears enjoying rafting:

sculpture of bears enjoying rafting