U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nationwide Children's Hospital collaborate to teach water safety
April 9, 2014
Bobber the Water Safety Dog and Corey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District's talking water safety boat recently visited Nationwide Children's Hospital to share water safety tips with patients, parents and hospital staff.
Huntington District Park Rangers Robert Cifranic, Sylvia Chelf and John Wargo, along with long-time volunteer, Dick Armstrong, collaborated with Nationwide Children's Hospital on the water safety event. A national leader in pediatric care, the hospital provides a full spectrum of services to more than 1 million children each year.
Children ages one to four have the highest drowning rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"Since most drownings are totally preventable, we really want to empower people to make smart choices and take easy, but sometimes disregarded precautions like swimming with a buddy and wearing a life jacket," said Cifranic, who is based at Dillon Lake, Ohio.
Bobber and Corey posed for pictures with participants and park rangers passed out prevention literature, cups, coloring books, tote bags and stickers with safety messages on them. They engaged in conversations with dozens of children about recreation safety at the on-site child care center as well as the main hospital facility.
"You're never too young to learn about water safety," said Corey the safety boat in a squeaky, high-pitched voice.
"Even infants can be taught water safety," added Wargo, a life-long boater and angler based at Alum Creek Lake, Ohio.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the leading provider of outdoor recreation in the U.S. with more than 420 lake and river projects in 43 states and more than 370 million visitors per year. That's millions of opportunities for water-related fun, but if you ask a statistician, that's numerous opportunities for water-related injuries, like drowning, too. As such, park rangers spend much of their time educating the public about recreation safety, including water safety.
"We want to keep a happy day at the lake happy by reducing injuries, and if we can teach children to make healthy decisions about how they behave in and around the water, we might be able to set the foundations for them to make healthy choices throughout their lives," said Chelf, who is based at Alum Creek Lake and is the mother of a toddler.
At Nationwide Children's Hospital alone, 201 children were admitted for dive trauma and drowning incidents from 2004-2013.
"We really want to be proactive with community education and deliver safety information to the public in many different ways including events like these," said Registered Nurse Dana Shoemaker. "If we can get safety information out to the public, maybe we can reduce the incidence of injury," said Shoemaker, who also is a nurse trauma leader at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
For Armstrong, an avid boater, volunteering with the park rangers, Bobber and Corey is fun and even a little bit self-interested, he admits. "The truth is you, me; everybody is better off when everybody is making smart choices about how they behave in the water."
Armstrong has volunteered to teach water safety with the Corps and other organizations for many years. A retired civil engineer and construction and mining equipment salesman, Armstrong regularly volunteers at the Alum Creek Lake Visitor Center and recreation site.
"Use the buddy system; avoid alcohol while operating watercraft, learn how to swim, wear your life jacket, be respectful of other swimmers and boaters and know the local weather conditions," added Armstrong.
If you are interested in becoming one of the many volunteers assisting with water safety efforts, contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Volunteer Clearinghouse at 1-800-865-8337. You may also apply on-line at www.CorpsLakes.us/volunteer If you would like Bobber the Water Safety Dog and Corey, the water safety boat to visit your organization, please contact Robert Cifranic at Robert.W.Cifranic@usace.army.mil