A rash of local drownings in recent weeks has led to a new emphasis on water safety in the Spokane area.
A one-day enforcement push Saturday, plus special deals on life jackets through two local retailers and educational materials, are included in the emphasis.
Four people drowned in the course of a week earlier this month in the Spokane area and North Idaho. All were enjoying the cool water during hot summer weather.
On Saturday, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Valley police will be on the river checking to see if people are wearing life jackets.
“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 news release.
“People should also be aware that it is illegal to not be wearing a life jacket 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.
On Thursday, the Spokane Riverkeeper and General Store are hosting 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, which is the 40th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act.
In addition, Big 5 Sporting Goods is offering a 25 percent discount on life jackets through Sept. 30. A discount coupon is available on the Spokane Regional Health District website, srhd.org.
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 and through the health district at (509) 324-1560, ext. 4.
Not wearing a life jacket is among the top reasons for drowning, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Other contributing factors include low swimming ability, alcohol consumption and lack of supervision of children.