Coast Guard life jacket training: What are you doing wrong on the water?

Beach Safety

PORTSMOUTH Va. (WAVY) — The Coast Guard is making sure boaters and their families are aware of life jacket safety, following several recent search and rescue cases involving people in the water in the Mid-Atlantic region. 

According to 2017 Coast Guard statistics, 76 percent of boating deaths are due to drowning and 85 percent of the victims were not wearing life vests. The Coast Guard says there continues to be rescues in our waters and boaters and passengers think they are following safety protocol, however, they aren’t. 

Victor Southerland was a boater rescued from the James River Bridge in Newport News on Thursday. 

“When I felt the boat start tilting I said, ‘Uh oh. Uh oh. This might be it,'” said Southerland. “I’m thankful we got out of it to live to tell about it.” 

Southerland and the other boater were wearing life vests, and had a cell phone to call 911. According to officials, they got it right. However, all  too often, people get it wrong. 

Lt. Gary George is with the U.S. Coast Guard and says life jacket safety is a priority.

“You can’t wait until you are in danger to put on your life jacket. Things can happen very quickly on the water so we do encourage people wear those life jackets whenever they get underway,” said Lt. George.

He says just having a life vest onboard is not enough to prevent an accident. According to the Coast Guard, the fit of the life vest is imperative, and you find all information regarding the life vest by simply looking inside. 

William Campbell with U.S. Coast Guard says there are five types of life jackets for mariners. 

“Life jacket is for an adult, and for the intended wearer, what the weight and chest size would be,” said Campbell. 

Additionally, children under the age of 13 should be wearing life jackets as soon as the vessel gets underway. 

“We want to make sure it’s fastened properly, which it is. We want to make sure its tightened, which it is,” Campbell says as he fits a child for a life vest. Campbell adds the ‘Pull Test’ is another important part to make sure the vest fits a child or adult properly. 

“Put their arms up and try and pull, as you can see, the life jacket should be a little uncomfortable to the wear, which guarantees the snuggest fit,” Campbell said. 

As for Victor Southerland, he’s happy he’s here to live to tell the tale and spread some boat safety wisdom to others.  After all, it saved his life. 

“Even if I’m not in my boat, follow protocol.”

The information presented on Friday is part of the Coast Guards safety campaign, #BoatSafe365. 

For information about boating safety, click here.

For information about a free child life vest loaner program, click here.

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