Dela"wear" a life vest

Posted 8/4/21

Prior to this year, there had been no drownings in the 73-mile stretch of the Upper Delaware River since 2018, according to the National Park Service. However, in the nine days leading up to the …

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Dela"wear" a life vest


Prior to this year, there had been no drownings in the 73-mile stretch of the Upper Delaware River since 2018, according to the National Park Service. However, in the nine days leading up to the Fourth of July the river claimed five lives, mostly due to swimming-related mishaps.

All experts and first responders advise wearing a PFD, aka personal floating device, whenever taking to the water. Note, there are five types of gear designed for very specific uses. A simple Google search can show you which one is best for your needs on a case-to-case basis.

Government resources recommend the following river tips:

Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and where to call if you don’t.

Make sure your water skills and experience are equal to the river and the conditions.

Never boat alone. Always have at least one, preferably two, other boats with you.

Wear a Coast Guard-approved, properly adjusted lifejacket when you are in or near the river.

Know the limits of your swimmer rescue and self-rescue skills on rivers. Strive to improve them to increase your confidence.

Know when and how to swim for the eddy.

Reduce injuries by wearing protective footwear and proper clothing designed for river recreation.

Be prepared for extremes in weather, especially cold.

Know about hypothermia and how it can affect you.

Plan your trip and stick to your plan

The United States Lifesaving Organization advises the following when facing strong currents while swimming:

Know how to swim.

Swim near a lifeguard.

Never swim alone.

If in doubt, don’t go out.

Rip Currents. Why are they dangerous?

Rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore.

Rip currents often form at breaks in sandbars, and near structures such as jetties and piers.

Rip currents pull people away from shore.

Rip current speeds can vary from moment to moment and can quickly increase to become dangerous.

Rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer away from shore.

Rip currents account for over 80 percent of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards.

What are clues that rip currents may be present?

A narrow gap of darker, seemingly calmer water between areas of breaking waves and whitewater.

A channel of churning, choppy water.

A difference in water coloration.

A line of foam, seaweed or debris.

How can I protect myself and my family from rip currents?

Whenever possible choose to swim in an area protected by lifeguards

Consult lifeguards about water conditions before entering the water.

Assume that rip currents are always present. 

Learn to swim in natural settings. Make sure children can swim in any body of water. Pool swimming is not the same as swimming in natural waters.

Learn to identify rip currents. Take time to evaluate the water before you enter the water.

What if I’m caught in a rip current?

Relax, rip currents don’t pull you under.

Don’t swim against the current.

You may be able to escape by swimming out of the current in a direction following the shoreline, or toward breaking waves, then at an angle toward the beach.

You may be able to escape by floating or treading water if the current circulates back toward shore.

 If you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself. If you need help, yell and wave for assistance.

How do I help someone else?

Don’t become a victim while trying to help someone else! Many people have died trying to rescue rip current victims.

Get help from a lifeguard.

If a lifeguard is not present, call 9-1-1, then try to direct the victim to swim following the shoreline to escape. Note—you must be able to identify the area of the emergency. Look for specific markers to help ID the locale.

If possible, throw the rip current victim something that floats.

Never enter the water without a flotation device.

Facts about rip currents

Rip currents do not pull people under the water—they pull people away from shore.

Rip current speeds vary. Average speeds are 1-2 feet per second, but they have been measured as fast as 8 feet per second—faster than an Olympic swimmer!

Rip currents can be very narrow or more than 50 yards wide.

Sometimes a rip current ends just beyond the line of breaking waves; however, others may continue to flow hundreds of yards offshore.

Rip currents are sometimes mistakenly called undertow or riptides, but these terms are not correct. Only the term rip current is technically correct.

Let’s remember and honor those lost and their grieving loved ones by learning how to avoid similar fates. Follow best safety options for enjoying our beautiful river, especially after strong rains when the waters are surging. Always remember, the best way to enjoy the river is by doing so responsibly.

Delaware River, safety, rip currents, life vest, tips


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