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Kids Don't Float
The death of
a child is made even more tragic when it is preventable. The State of Alaska’s Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and
Health Promotion is working with many partners to prevent drowning deaths
drowning was the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages
5-14 in 2006 to 2010 combined. Unfortunately, many of these deaths could have been avoided by the simple act of wearing a life
jacket. It is estimated that half of all boating deaths could be prevented with
the use of life jackets. Sadly, many Alaska children do not wear
personal flotation devices, which increase their risk for tragedy.
has more than three million lakes, 12,000 rivers, and nearly 34,000 miles of
shoreline spread across a total land area of 586,000 square miles — more than that of Texas,
California, and Montana combined. Exposure to water and inclement
weather, combined with high rates of boat usage, helps account for a 2012
boating fatality rate of 8 times the national average and a drowning rate of
8.9 drowning deaths per 100,000 residents; the national average drowning rate
is 2.6 per 100,000.
program that established 15 “loaner board” stations in the Kachemak Bay area
began in 1996 through a partnership between the State of Alaska Department of
Health and Social Services, the Alaska Safe Kids Coalition, the U.S. Coast
Guard, and the Homer School District. Due to the success of that pilot program
and overwhelming public response, Kids Don’t Float went statewide in 1997. In
2000, the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety joined the partnership.
staff from existing government departments and promoting the program through
established safety coalitions were essential steps in assuring the
sustainability and growth of Kids Don’t Float.
began as a simple idea to put spare life jackets on the local docks near Homer
is now a comprehensive statewide drowning prevention initiative. “Kids Don’t
Float” has two components: a PFD (personal flotation device) Loaner Board
Program that loans youth life jackets free of charge, and the Educational
Program, which teaches boating safety in schools.
inception in 1997, both components of the Kids Don’t Float program have grown
steadily. As of July 2013, there have been more than 30,000 life jackets
supplied to 627 loaner boards in 249 communities around the state and boating
safety classes reached the milestone of 100,000 participants.
Don't Float Program has become a model for safety educators throughout Alaska
and the United States. The Kids Don't Float Peer Educator Program was a 2002
regional winner of the National Safe Boating Council's Boating Education Advancement
Award and the schools program was the recipient of the National Safe Boating
Council’s Boating Safety Youth Program Award in 2009. Kids Don’t Float has now
moved beyond Alaska borders with programs started in at least 16 states and in
At least 24 Alaska children are known to have survived a near-drowning
accident because of a Kids Don't Float life jacket. Use of personal flotation
devices in Alaska is also on the rise. U.S. Coast Guard observational studies (2001-2010)
show steady increases in rates of life jacket usage in children ages 13 and
under. The same studies show that Alaska’s wear rate for life jackets is now
higher than the national average.
- State of Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. 10
Leading Causes of Fatal Injuries in Alaska by Age Group, 2006 – 2010.
- Cummings P., Mueller B.A., Quan L. Association
between wearing a personal flotation device and death by drowning among
recreational boaters: a matched cohort analysis of United States Coast
Guard data. Injury Prevention 2011; 17:156-159.14.
- Benson, Carl. Alaska's Size in Perspective.
Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks; 1998.
- Strayer H., Lucas D., Hull-Jilly D., Lincoln J.
Drowning in Alaska: progress and persistent problems. International
Journal of Circumpolar Health 2010; 69:3.
- Safe Kids USA. Drowning and Water-Related Safety
(Fact Sheet). 2011.
- State of Alaska Health & Social Services
- State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources,
Office of Boating Safety. Alaska’s Boating Safety Dollars at Work. 2009.