With Memorial Day weekend around the corner, first responders stress importance of life vests

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, but it’s also the start of the busiest season for emergency responders on local waterways.

“Three-day weekend, warm weather — they’re going to come down to the river,” said Sacramento Fire Capt. Keith Wade.

Firefighters and volunteers with Sacramento’s Community Emergency Response Team are gearing up for a busy weekend on the water, and they say they are already looking at statistics from the past to be as prepared as possible.

“Historically, we know 3 in the afternoon on Sundays, young males between the age of 20 and 30 are going to go out into the water and usually alcohol is involved, and one of them are going to suffer a tragedy,” Capt. Wade explained. “So we’re trying to avoid that.”

Sacramento CERT says the number one thing they wish people would do is wear a life vest.

But it’s not just enough to put a life jacket on, people need to make sure they are wearing it properly.  

“So the thing to remember with life jackets are you actually need to wear it a lot tighter than you would suspect initially,” said CERT Operations Chief Robert Ross. “If it’s loose on your body when you get into the water, there’s a possibility that you’re going to sink as the life jacket rises.” 

Ross said life vest straps should be tight, “and it should almost be difficult to breathe.”

“We have never pulled anyone out of the water and responded to an emergency where a life safety vest was on the person,” Wade told FOX40.

For those who do not own a life jacket or forget theirs at home, there are plenty to borrow at almost every entrance point along local rivers.

“But also, the city of Sacramento has made our life jacket program at six different firehouses where people can go to the doors, knock on the door, talk to a firefighter and ask to check out a life safety vest,” Wade explained.

At the end of the day, officials say their message is simple: Life jackets save lives.

“There’s definitely a perception of it’s not cool to wear a life safety vest, it seems burdensome,” Capt. Wade said. “I want to do these crazy activities and I want to be free, but what’s really not cool is the family members looking back and losing their loved ones.”

Fire officials also remind parents to always designate someone to watch children around bodies of water and keep all kids within arm’s reach.

They also stress the importance of learning CPR to help keep people alive until first responders arrive at the scene of a drowning.

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