Enjoy our great water resources and be safe

From the Commander:

What a great time of the year! It’s that time when Mother Nature beckons and we head to the great outdoors. Outdoor recreation benefits our physical and emotional rejuvenation and promotes respect for our natural resources.

We here at the Savannah District are blessed to have three of the best lake and recreations areas in the nation, along with the many Low Country rivers and of course, the Atlantic Ocean. With these beautiful resources comes a responsibility to focus on water safety. The goal of my message is to encourage each of you to enjoy the water and have lots of fun, but never forget, or maybe better said “always be thinking” about water safety first.


Everyone on a boat, and near the water, should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, whether the boat is a large speedboat or a small canoe — and whether you’re a good swimmer or not. Wearing a life jacket (also known as a personal flotation device, or PFD) is the law in some states for certain age groups, and you could face a stiff penalty for breaking it. Always be aware of the law in your area – some states require that you wear an approved life jacket for water skiing and other on-water activities. Better yet, just wear the PFD for all the other great reasons, such as the consequences to your family and friends when you don’t! Wearing a PFD is like wearing a bike helmet. It may take a few minutes to get used to it, but it definitely can be a lifesaver. Don’t leave land without it.

Alcohol is involved in numerous water-related injuries and up to half of all water-related deaths. The statistics for teenage males are particularly scary: one half of all adolescent male drownings are tied to alcohol use. More people die in boating accidents every year than in airplane crashes or train wrecks, but a little common sense can make boating both enjoyable and safe. If you are going to go boating, make sure the captain or person handling the boat is experienced and competent. Alcohol and water still don’t mix. Alcohol distorts a person’s judgment and slows down reaction time. That distortion is even greater on the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard warns people about a condition called boater’s fatigue, which means that the wind, noise, heat, and vibration of the boat all combine to wear you down when you’re on the water. Because there are no road signs or lane markers on the water and the weather can be unpredictable, it’s important to be able to think quickly and react well under pressure. If you’re drinking alcohol, this is often impossible.


Children or inexperienced swimmers should ALWAYS wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device/life jacket when around the water. Watch out for the dangerous “too’s” – too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity. Be sure to set water safety rules for the whole family based on swimming abilities (for example, inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep). Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards, such as deep and shallow areas, currents, depth changes, obstructions and where the entry and exit points are located. The more informed you and your family are, the less likely you are to be injured or worse. Always use a feet-first water entry—head and neck injuries and resulting fatalities occur far more often from “diving” in head first.

Remember – swimming in an open body of water (such as a river, lake, or ocean) is different from swimming in a pool. You need more energy to handle the currents and other conditions, and have no quick escape route. Always swim with a partner, even experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps, which might make it difficult to get out of the water. When people swim together, they can help each other or go for help in case of an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, it’s good to be prepared. Learning some life-saving techniques, such as CPR and rescue techniques, can help you save a life. A number of organizations offer free classes for both beginning and experienced swimmers and boaters. Check with your YMCA or local hospital, or chapter of the Red Cross.

Remember, the weather may look and feel perfect when we start each day, but Mother Nature can change things quickly, so always be prepared. Drink lots of water in the summer heat, rest in the shade often, and be ready to take shelter when storms are approaching.

Lightning can hit the ground before the rain does so take shelter from storms early.

Check out additional water safety advice at http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/wtrsafty.html

Enjoy your summer and be safe! Don’t Drink & Navigate – JUST WEAR IT!


Col. Jeff Hall
Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

About U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multimillion dollar military construction program at 11 Army and Air Force installations in Georgia and North Carolina. We also manage water resources across the Coastal Georgia region, including maintenance dredging of the Savannah and Brunswick harbors; operation of three hydroelectric dams and reservoirs along the upper Savannah River; and administration of an extensive stream and wetland permitting and mitigation program within the state of Georgia. Follow us on Twitter @SavannahCorps and on Facebook.com/SavannahCorps
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