As the summer heats up, exercise caution

SAVANNAH, Ga. – More public recreation fatalities occur in July than any other month, so we’re asking you to play it safe while on, in or near the water.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public recreation fatality statistics show that 88 percent of drownings were male, 89 percent were not wearing a life jacket, and 47 percent were swimming in areas not designated as a swimming area.

“Most people that drown would have survived if they had worn a life jacket,” Joe Melton, a Savannah District Natural Resources manager, said. “Life jackets come in many styles, sizes and colors. People need to choose the right one that fits properly and then make sure to wear it correctly.”

He also urges visitors to the Savannah District recreation areas to take advantage of the free lifejacket loaner program at many designated swim areas. Visitors can take a lifejacket from the display, use it and return it when finished.

Melton gives some more tips to help everyone have a safe and enjoyable time this summer.

Be aware of the conditions
Swimming in open water is different and more difficult than in a swimming pool. People can tire more quickly and get into trouble due to waves, current, lack of experience, exhaustion, or their abilities to swim as long have decreased. Even the best swimmers can misjudge their skills and abilities while swimming in a lake or river. Conditions can change quickly in open water, so before entering the water don a life jacket.

“While wearing a life jacket you will not use as much energy, it will help you float, and most importantly, it will be there when and if you ever really need it,” he said.

Watch out for each other
While on or near the water watch out for each other at all times. “It only takes 20 seconds for a child to drown and 60 seconds for an adult to drown,” Melton said.

Several people drown every year within 10 feet of safety because the people around them were not paying attention and did not recognize the signs of drowning. The signs of drowning can resemble someone just playing in the water.

The signs include head back, mouth open gasping for air, no yelling or sound, and arms slapping the water like they are trying to climb out of the water.

“Properly rescuing someone should never include contact with them unless you are a trained lifeguard,” Melton warned. “Reach out to the victim with something to keep your distance or throw them something that floats to pull them to safety.”

Boating safety
Boaters or those swimming near boats should be aware of carbon monoxide – another silent killer. This odorless, invisible gas clarifies another reason why wearing a life jacket saves lives. Carbon monoxide can accumulate anywhere in or around a boat regardless of what type of boat you have. It is heavier than air but lighter than water, so it floats on the water’s surface.

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include eye irritation, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. One breath of carbon monoxide at the water’s surface can cause someone to pass out and drown. Avoid areas where exhaust fumes may be present.

“Do not let anyone swim under or around the boarding platform because carbon monoxide could be waiting for them,” he said.

Play it safe
Every year several people lose their lives because someone encouraged them to do something, such as swim across a lake or out to the nearest buoy, or some other dangerous activity like jumping off a cliff or bridge. Your actions can have deadly consequences, so you should never encourage anyone to do these types of activities.

“Always remember to wear a life jacket because it could save your life or the life of someone you love,” Melton said. Learn more at

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
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