Health district, Big 5 put life jackets on sale

A life jacket can save a life – but it can be expensive, too.

In hopes of getting more families to play safer on the water, a partnership between the local health district and a sporting-goods retailer aims to lessen that cost.

A 25 percent-off coupon is available on the Spokane Regional Health District’s website that is good at Big 5 stores in Washington and North Idaho through Sept. 30.

It’s among efforts to save lives by educating residents about water safety. More than half of drownings and submersion injuries from 2004 to 2008 occurred in July and August, according to emergency room data from Spokane hospitals.

Thirty-four percent of those ER visits occurred in July during that period, said Julie Awbrey, the health district’s water recreation program manager. Twenty-two percent occurred in August.

“Drowning is swift and silent,” Awbrey said. “It’s not what you’d see in movies, with a lot of struggling and yelling.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the failure to wear a life vest as among top reasons people drown. Others include a lack of swimming lessons or ability, alcohol consumption and a lack of supervision.

Among people 17 and younger in Washington, drowning is the second-leading cause of death caused by an accidental injury. While children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water – a bucket, a wading pool – most children who drowned did so in open water.

When choosing a life jacket, Awbrey said, first check for a label indicating the jacket is Coast Guard-approved. Then try it on, checking for a snug fit. Jackets for younger children should have a head support and a strap between the legs.

On the Web: To find the life jacket coupon, go to the health district’s website at www.srhd.org. Click on “Health Topics A-Z,” then “Drowning Prevention.” The coupon is listed under “Printable materials.”

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