Kids Don’t Float


This is Fish Radio. I’m Stephanie Mangini.  Kids learn life saving skills. Hear more after this . . .

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Water is Alaska biggest playground and work site with its  abundance of lakes, rivers, and more than 47,000 miles of coastline. With so much activity in Alaskan water, the Office of Boating safety and the Department of health and social services along with many others adapted a Statewide program in 1997 known as Kids Don’t FloatLoanerBoard01

“The office of boating safety’s main mission is to enhance safe and enjoyable boating in Alaska by reducing fatalities, injuries, and property damage.”

Kelly Toth is the education specialist for the state office of boating safety. The risked-based injury prevention program is designed to help minimize accidents from happening.

“The kids don’t float program has two main components. There is the life jacket loaner board component which is managed by health and social services out of Juneau.”

627 childeren PFD loner boards have been  placed at harbors and boat ramps in near communities around the state.  So far 24 children have survived near drowning accidents because of the Kids Don’t Float PFD’s.

“Then there is the  educational component. The Kids Don’t Float curriculum is several different short lessons that cover various topics. They are designed to be delivered in a 40 to 45 minute period of time and they stick right to the message.”

The hands on lessons cover cold water immersion and the Alaska law related to children in life jackets. The second teaches communication and signaling devices, how to make a Mayday call, radio etiquette, and how to do a man over board drill and rescues. Kids also learn one on one in a pool.

“We set up these stations where students can experience what it feels like to trust a life jacket. There are students that have never felt that sensation of trusting a life jacket to keep them afloat.” 

Toth adds that there is a way of swimming and safely maneuvering in a PFD. They also have a man over board station and a clothing station.

“We put these students in clothes and we put them in the shallow end and say go for it try and put your life jacket on in the water and that is a great way to explain how difficult it is, because we don’t think about how difficult that would be.”

“When they get in there with the clothing and they try and put on a life jacket they get it. And they get this big aha moment like, ‘wow’ I guess I really will wear my life jacket.” 

Hopefully these lessons will carry on into adult hood for these Alaska children. Fishing is the deadliest job with the number one cause of death falling over board. Most of these  deaths could be prevented by fishermen and children wearing their life vests.

The curriculum is available free on line at the Alaska Department of Boating Safety 

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods who says thanks to its hard working fleet for another successful salmon season.   In Kodiak, I’m Stephanie Mangini.