SILVERTON, Ore. — The Silverton Fire District is helping families stay safe while enjoying area lakes, creeks and rivers this summer through the Life Jacket Loaner Program.

There have been several drownings in Oregon already this year, according to Silverton Fire District Assistant Fire Chief Ed Grambusch. To prevent more injuries and deaths they are offering free life jackets at three different sites for anyone to use while enjoying the water.

“What we don't want to see is the continual spiral of people getting into the water and not being able to get out alive,” Grambusch said. “So, we thought this was a pretty good step and so far, it’s been very successful.”

Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Anyone who is not prepared can drown. It doesn’t matter your age, it doesn’t matter your weight. It doesn’t matter who you are,” Grambusch said. “So, if you’re not that good of a swimmer, first of all, learn how to swim very well and then use your personal flotation device. Anyone can use these. Very simple to do.”

Anybody of water poses a risk for drowning, no matter the depth or strength of the current.

“This creek that we have here behind us looks very benign. It looks very small. It looks very shallow. You will die in it just as quickly as you will die in the Colombia. It's that simple,” Grambusch said.

The process for using the life jackets is simple; take them off the hangers and use them and then put them back when you are done with them. There is no charge for this service.

LIfe jacket loaner program
Brittany Falkers/KGW

The program was made possible through donations and the fire district’s Explorers program.

There are stations at Silverton City Park (Coolidge McClaine Park), the Silverton Reservoir, and Butte Creek supplied with several adult and youth sized personal flotation devices. The goal is to bring in more donations and add more sites in the future.

Every year the Silverton Fire District responds to water fatalities, near fatalities and water rescues. Most, if not all, of these tragedies, can be avoided by following some very easy tips provided by the American Red Cross:

  • Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone.
  • Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child's life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • Maintain constant supervision.
  • Make sure everyone in your family learns to swim well.
  • If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers. Many children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time.
  • Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
  • If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
  • Enroll in Red Cross home pool safety, water safety, first aid and CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies.
  • Drink plenty of water regularly, even if you're not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.
  • Knowing how to swim well is the first line of defense in the water and making sure that your family knows how to swim well can keep water tragedies from becoming a reality.

However, it is important to understand that even the strongest swimmers can easily become tired in the water very quickly especially after drinking alcohol and eating heavy meals. Know what your own limitations are and listen to what your body is telling you; if realize that you are becoming fatigued, get out of the water and take a rest.

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