Last week’s fatal Missouri duck boat accident hits home the potential dangers anytime people are around water. That’s the message from Wilton’s Fire Chief Ron Kanterman, in his third installment of the Wilton Fire Department and Emergency Management Team‘s water safety series in conjunction with this summer’s drown prevention and water safety campaign. This campaign is part of Wilton’s Community Risk Reduction program.

Life jackets (Personal Floatation Devices or PFD’s) aren’t just for boats and they only work when they are worn. We’ve already seen tragedies this season involving water borne accidents where life jackets were in the vicinity but not on the people. Weak swimmers and young people should wear life jackets in, on or near the water. They should be put on at the dock or shoreline and not taken off until back on dry land. Make sure you purchase United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved PFD’s. Water wings and blow up toys are not meant to be life safety devices so don’t rely on them.

From the American Red Cross:

When should someone wear a life jacket?

  • When boating or rafting and when using an inner tube or personal water craft
  • When children and weak swimmers are in, on or around water
  • In open waters or other challenging environments

How do I choose a life jacket?

  • It should be USCG approved.
  • It should be right for the activity you are participating in.
  • It needs to fit the person. One size does not fit all. They have weight limits too.
  • Remember to make sure buckles and straps are in good order and discard torn or damaged jackets. Practice swimming with it on, too.

What else do I need to know?

  • Know how to stay safe in and around the water.
  • Know how to recognize and respond to emergencies.
  • Know/learn how to swim.
  • Know how to safely operate water craft and take a boating safety course.


  • Anyone watching children who are in or around water must understand that drowning happens quickly and suddenly. Never take your eyes off of those you supervise, not even for a moment. (WATCH)
  • Any source of water is a potential drowning hazard especially for young children and weak swimmers. (LEARN)
  • It’s a known fact that people can drown in as little as three inches of water. (LEARN)
  • Know how to respond to a swimmer in distress and get everyone to swimming lessons. (LEARN)

For more information on water safety and drown prevention, visit the Red Cross Water Safety website or Drowning Prevention Coalition of AZ website.

Remember:  Drowning is not limited to the pool, pond, lake or the ocean. It happens in bath tubs, hot tubs and even 5-gallon water pails.