“Wear a lifejacket.”
It’s a simple, potentially life-saving message U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials hope to convey through an awareness campaign – with a Bulldog twist.
Corps officials are in the process of distributing posters bearing the image of Bully – the Mississippi State University mascot – and Buddy Beaver, the water safety mascot for the Corp’s Mobile Division.
Males age 18-36 are the predominant demographic among those who drown on Corps of Engineers projects, said Joseph L. Ponder, natural resource specialist/ranger with the Corps’s Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway Management Center. Ponder is the office’s water safety coordinator.
Corps officials recently developed the poster targeted “to the whole fan base. In doing that it will reach the ones who are drowning,” Ponder said.
“We’re proud of this and what MSU did for us,” he said, expressing thanks to MSU and the university’s Spirit Groups, head coached by Melissa Nichols.
Officials plan to distribute the poster at MSU and around the city, he said, trying to get it out at the beginning of football season in advance of Labor Day.
In the Corps’ Mobile District this year, two females and 14 males have drowned, according to Corps statistics.
The average age was 31. None wore lifejackets.
Some 4,000 to 6,000 drownings of all types take place annually.
After wearing a lifejacket, the next thing people need to know is how to swim and the other is being on the watch, Ponder said.
Corps officials offer key points on water safety. These include:
• Enter the water only when conditions are safe; wear a life jacket; use the buddy system while swimming, snorkeling or diving.
• Warn others never to jump, dive or swim in unfamiliar waters.
• Don’t mix alcohol with activities around the water. Make good choices if consuming alcohol or if with others who are.
Ponder provided a basic guide on how to approach someone who is drowning:
• Reach. Get something – a piece of wood, a limb, a rope – to reach out to the person in the water.
• Throw. Toss anything that floats – including a boat cushion or cooler – to the person. “Be innovative,” Ponder said.
• Don’t Go. People should not try to go into to the water on their own to try to help a drowning person. Instead, they should try to get help and call 911.
“It needs to be a very thoughtful process,” he said.
TTWMC personnel have made more than 25,000 water safety contacts this year, Ponder said.
For information on water safety through the U.S. Corps of Engineers, visit http://watersafety.usace.army.mil/safetytips.htm  or call (662) 327-2142 to hear a water safety message or to speak with a ranger about the subject.