John McMahon of Newton loves to fish and does so year-round. He’s on a boat or a bank in the summer and on a frozen lake in the winter. He is a good swimmer. He almost drowned.
McMahon wants adults to know that even the most experienced outdoors enthusiast can never forget to make water safety their top priority. McMahon was alone fishing from his boat on an Iowa lake four years ago when the wind came up and as he tried to untie his boat from a dead tree, he fell into the water. Alone and not wearing a life jacket (it was in the boat), McMahon struggled in the three-foot waves. He eventually made it to his boat and back into it, but recognizes he was very lucky. “I always check my boat thoroughly before I go out on the water,” said McMahon. “But I didn’t pay as much attention to myself. I should have been wearing my life jacket and since I was fishing alone, I should have let someone know where I was and when I was coming back.”
Thursday, June 15, 2017, Governor Reynolds will sign a proclamation declaring June 18 through 24 as Drowning Prevention Week. Over the last 10 years, an average of 37 Iowans has died each year from accidental drowning. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans that water safety is for everyone, not just children.
“Adults may overestimate their swimming ability or underestimate the risk associated with something as seemingly safe as fishing from a bank,” said IDPH Swimming Pool and Spa program coordinator Debbi Cooper. “Most adults appropriately take water safety for children very seriously, but take unnecessary risks themselves.”
Whether in swimming pools or recreational waters like lakes or ponds, it’s important for adults to make safety the top priority for everyone in or near the water:
- Adults should always provide direct supervision of young children and non-swimmers.
- Formal swimming lessons have been shown to reduce the risk of drowning.
- Coast Guard-approved life jackets can reduce the risk of drowning.
- Don’t mix alcohol with your day on the water. Alcohol affects your judgment, coordination, and sense of balance.
For more drowning prevention tips, visit https://www.idph.iowa.gov/swimmingpoolsandspas/prevention. To see a short video about John McMahon’s experience, visit https://youtu.be/cRSZNhq9KbY.