When seconds matter: Life jacket safety

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Thousands will hit the Chattahoochee River this year, but what starts out as a fun outing could turn deadly in a matter of seconds.

During the dog days of summer, it’s rare to not see boaters and kayakers out on the water. They’re all required to wear life jackets, but knowing what to look for when picking one out, could be the difference between life and death.

Jacob Barfield caught terrifying video on his GoPro what he thought were his final moments while kayaking two weeks ago.

“I came over hit a rock sideways, turned back over, so I was coming down backwards. I was feeling the rocks on my head, it broke the go-pro off my head,” said Barfield.

Barfield grew up on the rapids and is now a Certified Guide Instructor for Whitewater Express, but even the elite can be caught off guard in tricky waters. Columbus Fire Chief, Ricky Shores, says wearing the right gear could be what keeps you alive, when seconds matter.

Facts About Life Jackets

“Make sure you have a proper flotation device and make sure that it’s on at all times. Just use good common sense. Respect the water and understand that without those life saving pieces of equipment, that we’re required to wear, we could wind up in peril,” said Fire Chief Ricky Shores.

But not just any life vest will do, you want to make sure it’s approved and it fits.

There may be some things that you want to check for before picking out your next life jacket. make sure that you see a UL listed and coast guard approved stamp on it, as well as, it’s the right chest range and weight size for your own body.

Sanna Ball is a Certified Whitewater Instructor. She and her daughter enjoy outdoor water activities along the Chattahoochee. Ball says instilling good safety habits all starts by setting an example, at an early age.

“If you’re a parent and you’re not wearing a life jacket, or if you’re in your boat and you have it stashed to the side, or just don’t feel like putting it on, your kids see that,” said Ball.

Taking the time to put on the proper life jacket is a good habit that Barfield says he’s grateful he adopted early on.

“If I wasn’t wearing the life jacket, it would have taken me two or three more seconds to get up on top of the water, and that could have been the difference,” said Barfield.

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