DETROIT— Before you head out for a day on or near the water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USACE, encourages you to make sure you have life jackets for everyone and that they wear them.
On average, nine out of 10 people who drowned at a USACE lake, a river project or on the Great Lakes didn’t wear a life jacket. Life jackets save lives by keeping you afloat and providing time for rescue.
Make sure you size it right and buckle it up. A child should not be put in a life jacket that is too big for them because it will slip over their head if they fall in the water and they could drown. Life jackets are categorized by a person’s weight so check the label and test it to make sure it fits snug.
Most people who drown 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.
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.
Swim at a designated swim beach. These areas have been inspected to provide a safe swimming environment. At all USACE beaches you swim at your own risk so adults please watch your children, because most people drowned within 10 feet of safety. Many shorelines at USACE lake and river projects and in the Great Lakes have drop offs and you can be in water over your head instantly or pulled under by the current.
Expect the unexpected and wear the right size and type of life jacket because nine out of 10 people who drowned didn’t. Your best defense against the unexpected is a life jacket. Wear your life jacket and encourage those you love to wear one too.
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 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
Release no. 15-006