Water Safety

Nashville District
Published Jan. 10, 2024
Park Rangers Spencer Taylor (Front) and John Malone, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, take a boat out on Martins Fork Lake in Smith, Ky., May 25, 2011.  Both rangers are participating in a one-year training program that will prepare them for permanent assignments as park rangers in the Nashville District. Two men in a boat.

Park Rangers Spencer Taylor (Front) and John Malone, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, take a boat out on Martins Fork Lake in Smith, Ky., May 25, 2011. Both rangers are participating in a one-year training program that will prepare them for permanent assignments as park rangers in the Nashville District. (USACE photo by Leon Roberts)

Water Safety

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District welcomes your interest in water safety. We want to encourage visitors to our recreational facilities and lakes to use caution while boating, fishing, or swimming. Watch Your Children! Each year about 200 children drown in the U.S. and several thousand others are treated in hospitals for submersion accidents, accidents which leave children with permanent brain damage and respiratory health problems. Remember, it only takes a few seconds for a small child to wander away and as little as eight seconds for a child to drown. Children have a natural curiosity and attraction to water. Watch your children at all times when in and around the water and ensure that everyone wears a proper-fitting life jacket. The information on this page and its links will offer essential information that will help you, your family, and friends have a safe, enjoyable recreational experience at our projects.


Water Safety Near Dams

The Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to bring attention to the dangers present in the tail water of dams.  It is mandatory at all lakes, everyone in a boat, no matter their age, must properly wear a life jacket if they are located in the discharge of a dam.  Other guidelines to follow to increase water safety is to not anchor to the dam, be aware of the generation schedule, realize the generation schedule is subject to change at any given time. With the efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as everyone in the public we can work together to make boating a more safe and enjoyable experience!

If recreating at Laurel River Lake, keep well away from the Corbin City Dam.  Water flowing over the dam can create a current not readily seen on the surface but is capable of drawing boats into the face of the dam and holding them underwater.


Water Safety Tips

Knowing how to help yourself stay safe is an important step when heading out to a lake, pool, or other body of water; but knowing how to help others is equally as important. “Reach, Row, Throw, Don’t Go!” is a mnemonic tool to remember when dealing with a potential drowning situation. While each word has a specific meaning, the basic message is to encourage a rescuer to find any means of helping a person besides going in after the victim him or herself.

People who feel that they are drowning have an increase in adrenalin which enables them to become extremely powerful. Their fear turns into panic which can take the well-intentioned rescuer into the water with them. Rescuers should instead stay on the bank or in the boat and reach a stick, a paddle, or anything else that could be grabbed onto by the drowning victim. Tossing a life ring or throw bag to someone in the water is also a life-saving option.

Make sure everyone in your family learns to swim well Never leave a young child unattended near water Read and obey all rules and posted signs Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts Know how to prevent, recognize, and respond to emergencies
Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone Maintain constant supervision of children Swim only in areas designated for swimming Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
Set water safety rules for the whole family Wear a life jacket if you can’t swim or if you are just learning to swim Never dive or jump into waters Always wear a life jacket while riding on a boat Know your state’s laws governing boating and fishing


Hypothermia-The Killer of the Unprepared
Boating in cold weather can be exhilarating, but it also puts you at risk of falling into dangerously cold waters. Even boating in warm weather can be dangerous if the water is much colder than the air. As a general rule, if your air and water temperatures added together equal less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you should take the following steps:

Dress appropriately for the weather and other conditions. This includes layering your clothing and wearing a hat and neck cover to prevent unnecessary heat loss. Drink plenty of fluids and hot drinks (but not alcohol), and stay nourished with high energy food bars. Bring a change of clothes in a waterproof bag if you are going to be in or around water.

Wear a life jacket while you are on the water. Studies have shown that a combination of using the Heat Exchange Lessening Posture (H.E.L.P.) and a life jacket can increase a person’s survival rate considerably. Life jackets allow persons to keep still and adopt H.E.L.P. without being compelled to tread water or swim to stay afloat, which can reduce the survival time by 50%.

Hypothermia is called the killer of the unprepared. That is why it’s important you take the proper steps to reduce your risk the next time you plan on being in or around water.


Life Jacket Tips

Practicing water safety is a must when visiting Nashville District’s recreation areas.  Nearly all drowning fatalities at our lakes could have been prevented by wearing life jacket. It’s a fact – life jackets do save lives! But they are only effective if worn properly. This means:

Wear the right size!   A life jacket is too big if it can easily ride up when you lift your hands over your head. It’s too small if the inside label specifies a weight limit that you exceed.

Appropriate for the activity!   Different life jackets are made for different activities. Be sure to check the inside label to determine what activity a lifejacket is made to handle. For example, not all life jackets are appropriate for use on a personal watercraft or for skiing.

Keep life jackets in good condition!   Using a life jacket as a seat cushion on the boat is one sure way to reduce the life jacket’s buoyancy. Life jackets need to be in serviceable condition, with no torn threads, holes, or flotation missing.

Keep it buckled & zipped!   Wearing a life jacket haphazardly isn’t going to be nearly as effective in saving a life as one that’s worn in the manner it was intended. If a life jacket isn’t secured around the body, it could come off when you hit the water. 


Life Jacket Loaner Program

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping keep kids and adults alike safe by participating in the Life Jacket Loaner Program. This program allows boaters and swimmers to borrow a child’s or adult life jacket for the day, at no charge! This program is made possible by the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water.

Here’s how the Life Jacket Loaner Program works. If you don’t have enough properly fitting children’s life jackets on board, simply visit the registration centers at our recreation areas and sign for a loaner infant, child, or youth jacket for the day or the weekend. When finished boating for the day, return the jackets to the same location. Don’t worry adults, we have life jackets for your size too!


Boating Safety

Good boaters know the formula for staying safe on the water includes being aware of your surroundings, having good training in safe vessel operation, and knowing the local rules of the road.  The US Army Corps of Engineers along with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency encourage all boaters to take a boating safety course. 

Boat US Foundation provides a free, online boating safety training course, approved by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, specifically tailored to the rules and regulations in the state of Kentucky.  The course is interactive and will provide you with a Kentucky Boating Safety Certificate at the end of successful completion.  Please note that this course DOES NOT satisfy boater education requirements for students under the age of 18.  To access the free course, click on the Boat US Foundation link below.

Reduce the Risk of Drowning Video

Life Jacket Safety Video

(News Report) Investigators: Drowning is Silent

This story is from Fox 9 News in Minneapolis-St. Paul. It is important to watch this to have a greater understanding of how drowning is a silent event, and the importance of keeping an eye on people in the water and knowing the signs of drowning. This is a must watch!


Water Safety Resources


Fun Stuff for Kids