• 77°

Teaching water safety

Each year in the United States alone, approximately 6,000 people drown in the country&8217;s lakes, rivers, bays and streams. It is the job of people like Brandon Smith at the Demopolis field office of the Army Corps of Engineers to help educate people on water safety and how to avoid these drastic circumstances.

For the last seven years Smith has been part of the team that educates approximately 7,000 children in a seven county area on basic water safety tips. Smith said it is not uncommon for their sessions to be a child&8217;s first introduction to swimming and water safety.

Some of their tips include:

Learn how to swim.

Always swim with a buddy.

Swim in a designated area and make sure an adult watches you.

Wear a life jacket if you can&8217;t swim or are if you are just learning to swim.

But in addition to these tips, Smith said it is important to teach children about water safety at a young age.

But what may surprise some people is that statistically, approximately 50 percent of the people who drown in the coverage are of the Demopolis site &8212; which is part of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee project in the Mobile district &8212; is middle-aged white males. Smith attributes some this to people not making safety a priority early on in their lives.

Another surprising fact is that most people drown within 10-30 feet of safety &8212; not necessarily very far from land or boats &8212; which is all the more reason for people to pay attention to the small things, Smith said.

As far as the number of people who drowned in the local Corps coverage area, Smith said the numbers are relatively low.

In 2007 the Mobile district reported having 25 fatalities, two of which occurred in the Tombigbee-Black Warrior project. But for 2008, there has already been one fatality.

Smith said just last week a 12-year-old girl near Akron drowned near the banks of the river.

In order to prevent these things, Smith and his office are constantly partnering with community organizations to both get the word out about safety and perhaps motivate more people to become more interested in recreational water activities.