Drowning Risks Increase as People Take to the Water to Cool Off

Wearing life jackets is essential while swimming, boating, and fishing, especially with record-breaking heat throughout most Pacific Northwest. According to data on water safety, even though air temperatures may be high, water temps can be much lower and even lethal.

According to the National Weather Service, this is because unexpectedly falling into water can trigger involuntary gasping, even in 77-degree water. Injuries or disorientation caused by a rapid fall might also make it more challenging to recover from the occurrence.

β€œA lot of people who drown don’t anticipate being in the water,” said Tom Conning, Northwestern Division, USACE public affairs specialist. β€œAnother problem is people overestimate their swimming ability in open water – men are especially arrogant about their swimming abilities and strength.”

Since 89 percent of drowning victims are not wearing life jackets, according to data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), wearing a life jacket can help reduce fatalities.

β€œI understand you can still drown, even if you are wearing a life jacket,” said Conning. β€œMy dad was an extremely experienced whitewater kayaker, who took safety seriously, wore his life jacket and still drowned. He got caught in a snag that the group he was with couldn’t see. No family should deal with that trauma if its avoidable, which can be, if people wear their life jackets.”

Governmental agencies frequently issue public advisories about the safety of the water. Despite the recommendations, men still account for 88 percent of drowning victims, according to USACE figures.

Conning responded, “I understand you can still drown even when wearing a life jacket.” Despite taking safety seriously, wearing a life jacket, and having a wealth of experience paddling whitewater, my dad drowned. He ran into a problem that his companions were blind to. If it can be avoided, as it can if everyone wears their life jackets, no family should have to cope with such trauma.

Three district offices for the Northwestern Division are located in Oregon and Washington. Drownings have been on the rise in both states. The Washington State Department of Health reports that drownings have risen gradually from 89 in 2016 to 127 in 2020.

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In 2022, there were four drownings in recreation centers in the Walla Walla District. From 35 in 2020 to 57 in 2021, the Oregon Health Authority recorded 22 additional drownings in untreated water. Five drownings occurred at Portland District venues last year.

USACE representatives advise consumers to take safety precautions like:

  • A life jacket can save your life if you become weary and will help you survive a sudden fall into the sea.
  • Knowing your swimming capabilities is important because it differs from swimming in a pool and worsens as you age.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected: if you fall or leap into water colder than 77 degrees, you could breathe in water due to unconscious gasping.
  • Knowing “boater’s hypnosis” is important because it can impair your reaction speed almost as much as alcohol does.
  • Eliminating alcohol use: Alcohol causes caloric labyrinthitis, an inner ear disorder that can make you feel dizzy underwater.
  • Year-round, staff members emphasize the value of water safety, but summer is when most fatalities associated with public recreation occur.

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Louis Ebert

Louis Ebert is a talented content writer with a passion for creating compelling stories and informative articles. With years of experience in writing, Louis has honed their skills in crafting engaging content that resonates with readers.As a content writer for Focushillsboro.com, Louis explores the many facets of life in Hillsboro and the surrounding areas. From delving into the latest trends in local business to highlighting community events and leaders, their writing offers a unique perspective that captures the essence of the area.

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