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Posted 5/1/2018

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By Trisha Dorsey

As we recognize May as National Water Safety Month, it’s important to understand water safety is truly a year-round concern.

The Kansas City District urges recreation seekers to follow safety tips while enjoying water-based activities, especially during the summer months as larger crowds are anticipated at the district’s 18 lakes throughout Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. 

"Trends analyzed over the last 20 years show the typical victim in a water-related fatality was not wearing a life jacket, additionally almost half were swimming in a non-designated area," informs Kyle Ruona, Kansas City District public safety program manager. "Whether you are swimming, boating or fishing it is vital that you wear a life jacket in and around the water. It is impossible to know the exact moment when you will need one. So plan for the unknown, wear your life jacket and arrive alive."

Corporal Kimberly Davis with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Water Patrol Division, Troop A explains, “Both the Missouri Highway Patrol and Corps of Engineers want the public to understand important aspects of safe boating. We work in concert to ensure everyone is safe while enjoying water activities.”

Before heading out this summer, Davis stresses the importance to take the time to inspect watercraft before hitting the water and plan ahead.

“Inspect the boat before you go. Make sure your fire extinguishers are still in working order, do a mechanical check of the boat, check the battery and make sure all life jackets and safety devices are on board. Each waterway offers unique challenges so it’s important to educate yourself before you go and pay attention to safety and location signs. Knowing the waterway is extremely important, know where you are so you can accurately communicate with first responders if you need to.”

The Kansas City District urges visitors to be prepared, understand the importance of water safety and be alert to expect the unexpected. It’s imperative to wear a life jacket and to be familiar with your location and the body of water you are visiting.

“We encourage safety for all seasons and recreation activities,” said Ruona. “Our lakes offer numerous recreation activities and safety should not be limited to the water. It’s important to wear the proper safety equipment out on the trails, know your location, and keep good communications. Take the time to understand the current lake conditions and plan for any potential risks.”


Wear a life jacket

  • Drowning is the nation’s second leading cause of accidental death.

  • Accidents happen, even to responsible boaters. A life jacket can provide time for rescue.

  • Falls from vessels, boat ramps and shorelines happen. A life jacket in and around the water can make a difference.


Know your swimming ability

  • Open water is much different than swimming in a pool. The water is not clear, lakes have rougher conditions and lake depth can change in a second.

  • Swim in designated areas and wear a life jacket. A life jacket will help conserve energy and provide flotation.

            Know your vessel

  • Take a boating education course.

  • Understand the capabilities of the vessel and how to properly operate it.

  • Ensure all safety gear is in place and functional before setting out for a trip.

  • Know how equipment works in changing lake conditions.


             Be a “Water Watcher”

  • When on or near the water watch your children.

  • A child can drown in 20 seconds.

  • Drowning happens quickly and quietly. Know the signs. 

Have a plan

  • Don’t rely solely on technology – cell phones can fall into water or can be out of service range.

  • Create a “float plan” that informs family or friends where you are headed (lake, river, boat ramp, etc.) and identify when you expect to be home.

  • For emergencies dial 911 - from a cell phone dial *55 in Missouri and Nebraska and *HP for Salina, Kansas or *KTA for Wichita and Kansas Turnpike.  


Corps of Engineers Kansas City District USACE water safety