Press Releases

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers encourages life jacket use

Published May 23, 2017

"On Monday, we will remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation. Memorial Day was first officially observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of service members at Arlington National Cemetery," explained U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mobile District Commander, Col. James DeLapp. "Here at the Mobile District, we continue the tradition of taking time to remember and honor the men and women that gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy, said DeLapp.

"I hope that everyone keeps in mind that Memorial Day weekend also marks the beginning of the summer season. We are delighted that all of our recreation sites are open and that thousands will visit lakes, rivers, and beaches this weekend. Please keep in mind, a fun day of swimming or boating can quickly turn to tragedy if you don’t practice good safety measures, something as simple as wearing a life jacket can save a life."

In 2016, 24 people drowned while fishing, swimming, boating or participating in some other water activity at a Mobile District Recreation Site. "That’s 24 too many. All of these were preventable deaths. Most of them would have survived had they been wearing a life jacket," DeLapp said. This year, several lakes have water levels that are lower than the usual summer levels, which means the possibility of more obstacles for boaters and swimmers, he said.

The USACE National Operations Center forWater Safety offers these safety reminders:

Boating: Wearing a life jacket helps ensure that you can survive a fall overboard. Falls contribute to 27 percent of boating fatalities, so wearing a life jacket increases the boater’s chances of being rescued. A fall into the water can be like hitting concrete if you’re moving fast and it’s easy to get the wind knocked out of you. It takes a strong swimmer an average of 10 minutes to put on a life jacket after entering the water. Unfortunately, it only takes an average of 60 seconds for an adult to drown. If you won’t wear a life jacket for yourself, then wear it for those who love you.

Swimming: Wear a life jacket regardless of your swimming ability. No matter how well you swim, a fun swim could turn into a fight for your life due to conditions such as waves, current

or exhaustion. Swimming ability also generally decreases with age. Therefore, wearing a properly fitted life jacket is critical. A manual-style inflatable belt pack life jacket works great for swimmers because they can pull the cord to inflate it if they find out they are facing challenges they didn’t anticipate while swimming. 

Don’t mix alcohol and water: Being under water and under the influence is a dangerous combination as the swimmer can easily become disoriented. Boaters can also be affected. They can develop "boater’s hypnosis," a condition in response to sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion which causes fatigue and slows the boater’s reaction time. Combining that condition with alcohol or drugs further reduces the boater’s coordination, judgment and reaction time, so wearing a life jacket can prevent deadly consequences.

Wear a life jacket when swimming outside of designated areas: Swimmers who exceed their abilities is the primary factor that cause drownings in USACE lakes and rivers. Many people have drowned while swimming to a buoy or across a cove. To help ensure that swimmers return home safely, they should always wear a life jacket while on or near the water, even while swimming.

"Wearing a life jacket while swimming, boating or fishing is the simplest strategy to stay safe while enjoying the water," DeLapp said. "I encourage you to stop by the Visitor Center when you visit any of the USACE recreation sites. They offer a range of helpful strategies, such as safety tips, safe boating classes and life-jacket lending programs," DeLapp said.

For more information, click on the Mobile District’s Water Safety site at and

USACE Public Affairs
(251) 690-2505

Release no. 17-015