Keep Hope Afloat

The RRGClub has developed a "Keep Hope Afloat" logo and program with large signs installed at Richland and Kennewick boat launches. Other boat launches in the area will also be included in the program. The signs are accompanied with a "Lifejacket Loaner Station" with a dozen lifejackets of assorted sizes ranging from youth to adult. As a reminder, the law states that youth 12 years and under are required to wear lifejackets and a lifejacket is required in the boat for each person over 12.

Based on US Coast Guard surveys only 5% of adult boaters wear lifejackets. Couple this with the fact that 88% of boaters that died were not wearing life jackets and drowned. Also, consider the fact that it has been demonstrated that it is impossible to put on a life jacket despite having a life jacket in hand at time of immersion. Just having a lifejacket readily available is not enough and must be worn. In our area the average number of deaths because of drowning by not wearing a lifejacket is three per county or nine for the three county area

Background on the importance of always wearing a lifejacket

Howard Gardner and Tyler Cartier -July 2011

 

I ( Howard Gardner) have taught Hunter education in Washington State for 55 years. As part of each class I include a section on boating safety because boating deaths in Washington State outnumber hunting deaths by about 60 to 1. In our area of the Lower Columbia Basin, we have a lot of big water including the Columbia and Snake Rivers and their reservoirs, plus numerous lakes. With all the emphasis on boating safety, one important factor is not typically discussed.  In addition to emphasizing the fact that lifejackets save lives, I also point out that there is another reason for always wearing a life jacket.

 

The fact is, if a person wears a lifejacket, their body will remain on the surface and be rescued or found sooner in the event of a fatality. The "being found sooner" idea is an important point because it quickly resolves the issue of the pain and agony that friends and family go through without the closure of finding a body. Would any caring person knowingly want to subject family and friends to such an undesirable situation.

 

Without a life jacket, a body sinks and may not surface (bloat) for days or even weeks. Some are never found. The message I want to emphasize is that wearing a lifejacket goes beyond saving one's own life. It's also about the lasting effect on others - a fresh perspective that I believe will renew and reinvigorate dialog from family and friends to encourage boaters to wear life jackets. The challenge to family and friends of boaters is to insist that lifejackets be worn at all times while in a boat. The challenge to boaters that don't wear lifejackets is that they are being very inconsiderate and selfish.

Let's look at some sobering statistics concerning lifejacket use. Based on US Coast Guard surveys only 5% of adult boaters wear lifejackets. Contrast this with the fact that 88% of boaters that died were not wearing life jackets and drowned. Also, consider the fact that it has been demonstrated that it is impossible to put on a life jacket despite having a life jacket in hand at time of immersion. Just having a lifejacket readily available is not enough and must be worn. In our area the average number of deaths because of drowning by not wearing a lifejacket is three per county or nine for the three county area.

 

Consider the situation when alcohol is involved. It has been found that an inebriated person not wearing a life jacket upon falling in the water can become so disoriented as to swim down rather than to the surface. Further, alcohol in the blood stream magnifies cold shock and precipitously weakens the body's resistance to hypothermia. By the way, alcohol is the leading factor in fatal boating accidents accounting for 19% of the deaths.

 

In 2010 nationally, 21 children under the age of 13 died, six were wearing lifejackets. Here it could be observed that the reason six drowned is that their parents were not wearing life jackets. When I have fished popular areas like the O'Sullivan reservoir, I noticed that in boats with adults and children, only the children are wearing lifejackets. What happens if they all get dumped in the water? The question for children to ask of their parents is that if you are not wearing a lifejacket and we have an accident who is going to take care of me?

 

Consider the effect of water temperature and let's define cold water as being less than 55°F. Nominally the water temperature in the Columbia River in the Tri-City area is less than 55°F from Nov. 1 to June 1. According to Lieutenant Commander Brian LeFebvre, Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator at the Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound in Seattle, when suddenly immersed in cold water the human body gets shocked, setting off the following uncontrollable reactions that frequently lead to drowning.

First, the body instinctively gasps for air increasing the chance of immediate drowning if too much water is swallowed and enters the lungs.

Second, blood pressure and heart rate increase substantially which can trigger panic, hyperventilation and cardiac arrest-all making survival increasingly more difficult.

Third, after the reaction to immediate cold shock, the body works instinctively to preserve its core temperature. At this stage the loss of blood flow to the arms and legs causes muscular failure and the inability to swim.

 

The Coast Guard slogan to improve chances of survival is: "1 minute-10 minutes-1 hour"

*You have you have 1 minute to get your breathing under control, don't panic.

*You have 10 minutes of meaningful movement before you lose the ability to move your arms and legs. Use this time to get out of the water or stabilize your situation.

*You have 1 hour until you become unconscious from hypothermia if you don't panic and struggle unnecessarily. And if you are wearing a life jacket it may take another hour until your heart stops due to hypothermia.

It is important to note, that although not commonly known, the ability to shout for help during drowning may be limited or nonexistent.

 

In summary, there are no negative factors associated with wearing a lifejacket. In the past, lifejackets were bulky and hot in the summer. This concern doesn't apply any more. Currently you can get self inflating lifejackets that are slim and conform well to body contours. With respect to shotgunning, they don't interfere with mounting or firing a shotgun. Understand that these lifejackets are more expensive, but then again what's a life worth.

 

Getting back to the "being found sooner" idea, my son-in-law Tyler Cartier, in addition to helping with this letter, has developed a "Keep Hope Afloat" logo with accompanying comment that has been placed on four large signs and installed at four Richland boat launche sand two in Kennewick. The signs are accompanied with a "Lifejacket Loaner Station" with a dozen lifejackets of assorted sizes ranging from youth to adult. As a reminder, the law

states that youth 12 years and under are required to  wear lifejackets and a lifejacket is required in the boat for each person over 12.

 

The Richland Rod and Gun Club hopes that with the recognition and acceptance of the "being found sooner" idea, the incidence of lifejacket wearing will rise considerably above the current 5%.

 

ADDENDUM-an abbreviated and more shocking statement of the concern

 

FLOAT DON'T BLOAT

Floating, and being found, is the desired result from accidental immersion while wearing a life jacket during boating

Bloating, and hopefully surfacing and being found at some future date, is the result of not wearing a life jacket

When the consequences of not wearing a life jacket and not being found until some future date are considered, the individual act of not wearing a life jacket during boating becomes very selfish

Think of the extensive worry and agonizing of family and friends caused by not knowing whether the missing person is alive or dead until the body is recovered.

So, FLOAT DON'T BLOAT

For information on the availability of lifejackets at boat launches in the area click on Boat Launches

When the map appears click on the icons for more information about the boat launches.  

 The idea for the “ Keep Hope Afloat” signs was generated during a conversation I (Howard Gardner) had with my son-in-law Tyler Cartier during the Christmas holiday in December 2010. I told Tyler I had a big concern about the effect on the family of a person disappearing during boating. Without wearing a light jacket, sometimes days and weeks go by until the person is found or sometimes never found. I said that maybe a sign could be put together that would get people thinking about always wearing a life jacket during loading. We should have a title for the sign and based upon his background as a copywriter he suggested “Float Don't Bloat. The word “Bloat” was used because after a day or two in the water gas is formed in the body causing it to bloat and I float to the top. Upon my return home I called the Washington State Parks Department and discussed the suggested sign title idea with them. They thought that the “Bloat word was a little raw for the general public. I discussed this with Tyler and he came up with the title” Keep Hope Afloat” and he put together some examples of what a sign could look like a along with accompanying reasons for always wearing a life jacket while boating. The sign idea was discussed with the Richland Parks Department, they liked it and they agreed to put  signs up at the four Richland boat launches. Sign manufacturers were contacted and a low bid for four signs was obtained from “Signs by Sue”. The cost per sign was $230. Kennewick and Pasco ParKs Departments were contacted and they agreed to put up signs at their boat launches. 

The first four signs were sponsored by the Richland Rod and Gun and Gun club. Eight additional signs were sponsored by local businesses, clubs and individuals. Currently, a total of 12 signs have been placed at boat launches in the Tri-City area including one at Crow Butte. A listing of the signs locations and sponsors follows. All signs are accompanied by life jackets except Kennewick which requires contact with City Hall to get a loaner.

Tri-City Herald

Published Thursday, Sep. 29, 2011

 

Groups you want to join and one you hope you don't

 

Wear a life vest

 

The Richland Rod and Gun Club wants you to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water. They have taken it upon themselves to remind you of all the reasons it's a good idea.

You will start seeing these reminders at boat launches around the Tri-Cities.

 

They've put their money into the project with the hope it will save your life.

Everyone knows life vests save lives -- but only if you wear them.

 

The Columbia River is notorious for its typically cold temperature and strong undercurrent -- both make it hard to stay on top of the water.

 

We appreciate the local dive and rescue team members, but really prefer not to send business their way. Sadly those calls usually turn into a recovery effort, not a rescue.

 

We echo the rod and gun club's sentiments -- wear a life jacket -- and offer them a pat on the back for the project.

 

We see a lot of projects that are launched this way -- someone recognizes a need and sets about meeting it.

 

It happens frequently in the Tri-Cities, and we're grateful every time it does.

Richland, WA         (509) 551-9066

Kennewick, WA      (509) 551-6785

Pasco, WA

Tri-Cities, WA           RRGC.org

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