Why Everyone Should Wear Life Jackets
Our friends at the Oregon State Marine Board have shared the following messages:
Oregon Law: All children under 13 are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard –approved, properly fitting life jacket when on a boat that’s underway. Fortunately, many parents have their children wear their life jackets the entire time they are in the family boat, even at anchor, so that children can also swim with the protection of a life jacket.
However, every year, during the first hot days of summer, families and their children go to open bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs to cool off, not knowing the potential dangers. Rivers have unstable banks and slopes. What starts out as a gradual slope up to a child’s knees can quickly drop off, causing the child to lose their footing and go under water. Without a life jacket, many children panic and swallow water which leads to drowning. It’s important to always have children wear a life jacket when they are near the water, especially around rivers and reservoirs because these water bodies remain cold until the very end of summer. Life jackets also provide protection when children are around docks and other floating structures.
Cold water is an important consideration when swimming. Oregon’s waterways range between 48-60 degrees Fahrenheit, year round. Most people will become hypothermic (dangerously low body temperatures) within 15 to 30 minutes of submersion in cold water and children even sooner. In addition, the first few seconds of sudden immersion into cold water are the most dangerous. Everyone undergoes an involuntary “gasp reflex,” and if the person does not have a life jacket on, they increase their chances of gasping in water, which leads to drowning.
Key Points for Parents:
Try It On
- Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your child’s size and weight.
- Make sure the life jacket is properly zipped or buckled.
- Raise your arms straight up over your head while wearing your life jacket and ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings, gently pulling up.
- If there is excess room above the openings and the life jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit properly. A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket.
- It is extremely important that you choose a properly fitting life jacket.
- Life jackets that are too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous.
- Life jackets that are too small will not be able to keep your body afloat.
- Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
- Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your boating activities.
- Take the time to ensure a proper fit.
- Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”
Resources from the Oregon State Marine Board:
Flier to share from Safe Kids Worldwide
Safe Kids Oregon works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Safe Kids Oregon is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Oregon was founded in 1995 and is led by Oregon Public Health. Click here for information on other Injury Areas.