Kids Don’t Float teaches children lessons for life
Posted by PA3 Meredith Manning, Monday, March 7, 2016
When seven-year-old Sam Fredrickson plunged into the water during a hunting trip with his father, Walter Washington Sr., and a family friend, near Angoon, Alaska, it was Sam’s quick thinking and use of boating safety equipment that ultimately saved their lives.
Like many hunters in Alaska, the three used a canoe to get to and from the hunting site and, after a successful trip, they loaded two deer in the canoe and headed back to Angoon. The water began to get rough as they paddled back, causing the canoe to flip and sending Sam and the two men into the cold water. Only Sam was wearing a life jacket and his father and friend began to panic. The boy calmly threw a life jacket to his father and encouraged the two men back to shore.
Situations such as this arise often in Alaska. There are more than 320 Alaskan communities, all of which are located on the water or have direct access to a waterway. For this reason, the Coast Guard and the Alaska Office of Boating Safety stress to Alaskan children the importance of practicing safe boating. Through the Kids Don’t Float program, Coast Guard and Office of Boating Safety members visit schools and villages throughout Alaska and teach children the importance of life jackets, how to help someone who’s fallen in the water and the effects of cold water on the body.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Hamilton Cleverdon, a marine safety technician at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarabeth Duke, a yeoman at Coast Guard Sector Juneau, visited Diomede School on Little Diomede Island to teach some of these lessons. The school has approximately 20 students, very few of which had ever met a Coast Guardsman or been through a KDF class. Other members of the village, including village elders, the mayor, the village public safety officer and many parents, attended the class as well. During the lessons, the students tried on life jackets, put their hands in ice water and did life jacket relay races. Through these activities, the children and village members were able to see firsthand how they can prepare for emergency situations on the water.
Along with teaching classes, KDF also provides Alaskans with boating resources. The life jacket Sam wore on his trip is an example of the available resources. There are 650 life jacket loaner boards throughout Alaska, providing life jackets for boaters to borrow while they are on the water.
There is not a mandatory boating safety education requirement in Alaska, making KDF an important resource. Villages like the ones in Angoon and Little Diomede rely on boating as transportation, subsistence and recreation. The lessons provided to children by KDF has lead to 26 documented lives saved in Alaska.