Recent drownings lead to water safety push

TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2012, 10:56 A.M.

A rash of local drownings in recent weeks has led to a new effort to emphasize water safety in the Spokane area.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the Spokane Regional Health District, Spokane Riverkeeper and General Store, 2424 N. Division St., this morning announced a series of efforts to increase public awareness and safety on local waterways.

Four persons drowned in the course of a week earlier this month in Spokane and North Idaho. All were enjoying the cool water environment during hot summer weather.

On Thursday, the Spokane Riverkeeper and General Store are participating in a “swimmable action day” to call attention to water protection and water safety. The General Store is offering a 40 percent discount on life jackets that day.

In addition, Big 5 Sporting Goods is offering a 25 percent discount on life jackets through Sept. 30.

On Saturday, the sheriff’s office and Spokane Valley Police will be on the river checking to see if people are wearing life jackets and to provide public education.

“The emphasis will begin at state line and continue to the Centennial Trail bridge just west of Plantes Ferry Park. It will pick up again at People’s Park and continue west, ending at Plese Flats,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release.

“People should also be aware that it’s illegal to not be wearing a lifejacket while on watercraft in the Spokane River, including on canoes, inflatable rafts or inner tubes, and kayaks,” deputies said.

Failure to wear a life jacket can result in a $76 fine.

The health district offers a “designated child watcher tag” for parents supervising children playing in the water. The tag includes emergency tips and comes with a whistle to alert children.

The tags are being distributed free at four Pool World locations.

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists failure to wear a life jacket as among the top reasons people drown,” deputies said.

“Other reasons include a lack of swimming lessons or ability, alcohol consumption and a lack of supervision.”

The health district also offers these important life jacket tips:

• Be prepared at all times by wearing a life jacket - you’ll never know when you’ll be tossed into the water.

• Parents are powerful role models - if they wear life jackets, it’s more likely their children will too.

• Take life jackets, a rescue device, a cell phone, and someone who knows rescue breathing whenever you are out on the water.

• Parents need to teach their children about the dangers of open water at rivers and beaches.

• Many sporting goods stores will assist customers in selecting appropriate, properly-fitting life jackets.

• Watch children closely around water - they can go under water quickly and quietly.

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