Life jackets essential for water safety

While more warm days lie ahead on Whidbey Island, a fall into the water can be dangerous and deadly, according to the Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron.

Wearing a life jacket is essential for boaters, kayakers and paddlers, according to the DPSPS.

Local water temperatures average in the mid-50s, and a fall into the water could bring on cold water immersion, which is the cause of many boating-related fatalities.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, cold water immersion and hypothermia can occur in water as cool as 70 degrees at any time of the year.

Cold water immersion refers to the affect that that sudden shock of cold water has on your breathing, according to Pat Waters, DPSPS commander.

“You fall in, and you have an automatic gasp reflex action as soon as you immerse in that cold water,” Waters said.

“If your head is under water, you can ingest water, drown or have a constricted windpipe and suffocate.”

Even experienced swimmers can experience shock within one minute in the frigid water and lose muscle control within 10 minutes.

According to the National Safe Boating Council, accidents on the water happen too quickly to put on a stowed life jacket. Drowning is the reported cause of death in 77 percent of all boating fatalities — and 84 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket.

Waters noted that “it’s not just those on the bigger boats heading out, but anyone on smaller boats, kayaks, jet-skiers, and paddle boards that need to heed the life jacket requirement.”

Waters also stressed the importance of dressing properly for the weather.

“Always wear layers and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet,” he said.

The Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron is a 44-year-old nonprofit organization. It is a member of the United States Power Squadrons, the world’s largest boating education organization.

DPSPS has more than 75 members from Whidbey and Fidalgo islands.