May 12, 2015 Share

Play it safe with a life jacket when visiting Corps lakes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District encourages people to play it safe with a life jacket when visiting Corps lakes. Wearing one is simply the best chance of surviving an accident when playing in the water.

During the 2014 recreation season, 18 people lost their lives at the Nashville District’s 10 lakes in the Cumberland River basin. Of those, all but one was not wearing a life jacket, said Mark Klimaszewski, water safety manager in the Nashville District’s Natural Resources Management Branch.

Klimaszewski said life jackets save lives by keeping people afloat and providing time for rescue.

When selecting a life jacket, he said it’s important to make sure people size it right and buckle it up. A child should not be put in a life jacket that is too big because it will slip over their head if they fall in the water and they could drown. Life jackets are categorized by a person’s weight so check the label and test it to make sure it fits snug. If someone still doesn’t know how and when to wear a life jacket, ask a park ranger at the lake who can help you get it right, Klimaszewski stressed.

At Corps lakes most people who drown never intended to be in the water; they unexpectedly fell from a boat or dock into the water. When this happens, a person will reflexively gasp and can inhale up to one liter of water and drown in less than a minute.

Klimaszewski noted that some people get into trouble swimming out to retrieve a boat that floated away, or swimming in association with a boat. Swimming in natural waters is not the same as swimming in a pool. Even strong swimmers can get into trouble and be gone within seconds. It takes an average of 60 seconds for an adult to drown and just 20 seconds for a child to drown. Swimming ability also decreases with age, he said.

Park Rangers at the Nashville District’s 10 lakes advise visitors to swim at a designated swim beach. These areas have been inspected to provide a safe swimming environment. At all USACE beaches visitors swim at their own risk so adults are encouraged to keep close watch of their children.

Many shorelines at USACE lake and river projects have drop offs and swimmers can be in water over their head instantly or pulled under by the current, so it’s always a great idea to wear a life jacket, Klimaszewski added.

Boaters should wear life jackets, avoid alcohol, and boat with a friend. Always check the capacity plate and don’t overload a boat. Let someone know the plans for travel on the water to include time of departure and return.

In 2014 more than 33 million people recreated at Lake Barkley, Cheatham Lake, Old Hickory Lake, J. Percy Priest Lake, Cordell Hull Lake, Center Hill Lake, Dale Hollow Lake, Lake Cumberland, Laurel River Lake and Martins Fork Lake in the Nashville District.

“We have a tremendous safety record given that we have more visitors every year than even Disney World,” Klimaszewski said. “But one life lost is tragic. So please wear your life jacket and be aware of what is going on around you at all times. The Corps wants you to have fun but be safe so you can return home safely at the end of the day.”

USACE is the nation’s largest federal provider of water-based outdoor recreation, managing more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states and hosting more than 370 million visits per year. With 90 percent of these recreation areas within 50 miles of metropolitan areas, they provide a diverse range of outdoor activities close to home and to people of all ages.

Visit for more information that could save your life or the life of someone you love.

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at