Shoring Up Drowning Prevention

Shoring Up Drowning Prevention

Jul 02, 2014

Several Local Agencies Again Partner in Effort to Shore up Residents’ Drowning Prevention Efforts

Inland Northwest Drowning Prevention Coalition, Spokane Regional Health District, Spokane County Sheriff and local businesses stress importance of life jackets, swimming safety measures.

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer at (509) 324-1539 or

SPOKANE, Wash. – July 2, 2014 – As recent news reports make clear, swimming and floating in open waters, especially on the Spokane River at higher stream flows, can be hazardous. As the holiday weekend approaches, agencies are partnering to remind residents that preventing drownings is as simple as residents putting on their life jackets. It is a precaution that is as easy as buckling a seat belt while in a vehicle.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists failure to wear a life jacket as among the top reasons people drown. Others include a lack of swimming lessons or ability, alcohol consumption and a lack of supervision.
Generally, around half of drowning victims in Washington state did not intend to be immersed in water. They were fishing in or near a river, riding in a boat, or wading, but slipped and fell in cold or swift water. Therefore, partners urge everyone to ensure they have the correct size and type of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, know how to swim and stay safe in and around water. Anyone planning a river activity like kayaking, canoeing, rafting or floating on a tube should always check river levels and conditions before leaving home.
Partners reference a 45-second PSA emphasizing drowning prevention messages locally. To view the PSA now, click here. Partners also do additional outreach, including working with Big 5 Sporting Goods stores to offer a 25 percent off coupon for life jackets, through Sept. 30, available here.
Residents can be cited for failing to wear a lifejacket—a $76 fine. 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.
“Wearing a life jacket is not just a legal issue, it’s a lifesaving issue,” said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, public information officer for the Spokane County Sheriff’s office. “It’s better to be smart about what you’re doing and plan for the worst case scenario instead of having a bad situation arise.”
The Sheriff’s office also wants to spread the word about a relatively uncommon form of drowning that can occur after a swimmer is submerged in water. These individuals have a quick recovery breathing-wise and act normally. But, over the next few hours, some may have signs of increased trouble breathing. These are: coughing, rapid breathing, and feeling and acting tired or listless. Even though there is not water in the lungs, the breathing difficulties happen because the lung, through changes in blood flow, reacts to the near-drowning event.
Since breathing difficulties develop slowly, over a period of 5-8 hours, it gives family members and friends time to watch and, if concerned, recheck to see if breathing becomes more difficult or if the individual is overly tired. Any child or adult with worsening breathing should be taken to an emergency department.
This is the time of year to enjoy open waters, including the Spokane River, but to do so safely. Through outreach and education, and collaboration with business partners, Inland Northwest Drowning Prevention Coalition, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Regional Health District hope that “safety first” becomes the motto of Spokane River recreation.
More drowning prevention information can be found at Information can also be found at SRHD’s web site offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.