Interesting Stuff

Idaho Parks Floats Safety Program


The unofficial start of boating season in Idaho was over the Memorial Day Weekend and if boaters take advantage of a new “Life Jacket Loaner Station,” It could be a safe season.

The GUARDIAN paid a visit to the Cascade boat dock near the Golf Course and was met with this interesting sign and free life jacket loaner station. Lets hope it works well and the jackets don’t end up where the shouldn’t.

The plan certainly merits monitoring and if the jackets remain available for those who need them–and get returned, it could catch on at other busy locations.

UPDATE FROM RICK JUST AT IDAHO PARKS–“We’ve had a loaner program for years, but the life jackets were never easily accessible. You always had to chase down a ranger. Putting them out for easy access is new this year. Similar programs have experienced loss rates of around 1%. The life jackets are very identifiable, which should encourage their return.”

Background on the program follows.

One of Idaho Parks and Recreation’s goals is to educate boaters on the significance of wearing the appropriate size and type of life jacket while boating. Another is to make sure a day of boating isn’t spoiled just because a family forgot a life jacket at home. And finally, the most important goal: simply to keep boaters safe out on the water!

The group or waterfront location accepted into the program will receive 16 various-sized life jackets, as well as a kiosk to display the life jackets. The life jackets should be displayed in prominent location—like near a boating ramp. A boating family can then check out the life jacket for a day, free of charge. At the end of the boating trip, they can return it to the same location.

Having free life jackets available will not only provide immediate protection for the boater, but in cases where the boater is breaking the law by not having their children in life jackets, the vessel operator will not be forced off the water for non-compliance.

This program isn’t new; the first life jacket loaner station began in Homer, Alaska in early 1996. The Homer Fire Department, with a grant from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, collaborated with Homer Safe Kids, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the Homer School District to establish 15 life jacket loaner stations in communities around Kachemak Bay. The stations, or “loaner boards,” display life jackets that can be borrowed at no cost and returned after use. The public response was so positive that, in November of that same year, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Section of Community Health and EMS, the U.S. Coast Guard District 17 Recreational Boating Safety Program, and Alaska Safe Kids partnered to expand the program.

Alaska’s life jacket loaner board program has been a success. More than 466 Kids Don’t Float (KDF) loaner boards have been placed in communities around the state, hosted by many different agencies, organizations, and individuals. At least fifteen Alaskan children are known to have survived a near-drowning accident because of a Kids Don’t Float life jacket. In a 1997 study, the observed life jacket wear increased from 16% to 35% at a loaner board site immediately following its installation. A 2001 observational wear-rate study conducted by the Alaska Boating Safety Program, the U.S Coast Guard D 17, and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, showed that the wear rates for children between 0 and 17 years of age increased by 25% in those areas with loaner boards.

With your help we can make a difference for Idaho’s Boating Public!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Reminds me of the free loaner bike program in Boise years ago.. they all ended up gone. (having a cynical day here).

  2. Looks like a good program. Good to see a gov’t agency with some initiative to solve an existing problem.

  3. Kinda like the yellow bike program in Portland.

    Life jackets won’t save ya from stupid either… the best lake safety equipment I ever saw was a cop with a ticket book.

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