Iowa DNR and Swim Instructors Stress the Importance of Life Jackets

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said many drowning incidents can be prevented, and there's only one item standing between life and death.

“It’s just a good safety measure, as I tell people, when you put your seat belt on every time you get in the car, it's the same thing when you go out to the river. Put on that life jacket. It could mean the difference between life and death in a matter of seconds,” Iowa DNR Communication Manager Alex Murphy.

If you do see someone struggling in the water make sure you’re prepared to help them.

“It’s instant reaction and common instinct to just run into the water and save them. Don’t go back in unless you have something, a life jacket on yourself or some kind of flotation device to take out there to help them because they could, at times, grab onto you and pull you down under also, and then we are talking about two or more people being taken under the water,” Murphy said.

In addition to life jackets, it's important to learn how to swim so you can react to unexpected, fast-moving water.

“We’re fortunate enough at Clive to have our lazy river to experiment a little bit with it, but really it just comes down to the sole knowledge. If I’m stuck in a rip current, I need to have my arms crossed going down feet first and make sure I have a life jacket,” Clive Aquatics Recreation Coordinator Brian Longren said.

Experts say it’s essential for parents of young children to start swimming lessons as soon as possible, but also to have regular conversations with the instructor and the child to see exactly what they can handle before going to lakes or rivers.

“It’s important to really make sure we are having those conversations one-on-one. That they’re asking their children, 'what'd you learn today?' and also asking the instructors what advice could I do to really make sure that my child, my swimmer, is strong enough to move just beyond the basic skills,” Longren said.

Swimming lessons are available to both children and adults, and instructors make sure to test the students before they move on to the next level.

“How we pass students is not if they complete the basics, we pass them on mastery to make sure that they are ready to go to the next level. So even if they did a 25 free but it was very rudimentary and it should be a master skill, we won't pass them until we know they’re ready to move on to the more advanced levels,” Longren said.

Murphy said even if you’re not going out very far, it’s important to wear a life jacket at all times in lakes and rivers.