Campaign urges water safety

May. 09, 2014 @ 05:04 PM

This summer, boat ramps along Kerr Lake will remind visitors to practice safety in the water.

Life Jacket Zone stencils will be painted on boat ramps across the state and in Virginia as part of the Saved by the Zone campaign sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, N.C. State Parks, the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, Safe Kids Wake County and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The brand-new campaign, which launched May 3, also involves boating safety educational events and an online life jacket photo contest. This year, National Safe Boating Week is May 19-25.

“You always have to come up with new and different things to grab people’s attention and raise awareness about the use of life jackets,” said Michael Womack, operations project manager with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers located at John H. Kerr Reservoir.

In 2010, drowning was the reported cause of death in almost three-fourths of all boating fatalities, according to the National Safe Boating Council. Of those, 88 percent were reported as not wearing a personal flotation device, or life vest.

“Wearing a life vest is one of the most effective and simplest life-saving strategies for safe boating,” said Maj. Chris Huebner, who is the Wildlife Commission’s state boating safety coordinator. “Life vests are no longer the bulky, cumbersome models of years past. Knowing what options are available and what model works best for you — then wearing it — can mean the difference between life and death.”

North Carolina law requires children younger than 13 to wear an appropriate life vest whenever they are on a recreational vessel that is under way.

The vest must be U.S. Coast Guard approved and be a proper fit, with youth sizes corresponding to weight. The law also requires all personal watercraft riders and passengers, and anyone being towed by a personal watercraft wear life vests.

Womack said there are not any activities directly related to the campaign at Kerr Lake, but they plan to have the boat ramps stenciled as the summer progresses.

The photo contest, which also kicked off May 3, is open to everyone.

Participants are asked to take a picture of themselves, friends or family properly wearing a life jacket and submit the photo to the Life Jacket Zone Facebook page at facebook.com/LifeJacketZoneNC.

The pictures with the most likes by the end of summer will receive prizes.

Womack said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers places a huge emphasis on water safety because it can save lives.

“Any activity that occurs in or around the water, we would encourage people to wear life jackets,” he said. “If someone is not planning to go in the water, they might not think to wear a life jacket. But, if they end up in the water by some accident, and they should be prepared.”


Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.