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A group of friends enjoy waterskiing and boating while wearing their lifejackets.

A group of friends enjoy waterskiing and boating while wearing their lifejackets. (Photo by courtesy photo)

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Posted 3/6/2012

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By Romanda Walker
St. Louis District


With spring around the corner, more than 3.7 million college students across the nation are preparing for a well earned spring break. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would like to urge everyone to play it safe while at the beach or around water. Don't wreck your spring break! Following these top ten tips could mean the difference between life and death.

Number 10: HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Position) can save your life in cold water. This position is where your knees are drawn up to your chest with your arms grasping them together helping retain body temperature until you are rescued. Wet clothing will not weigh you down in the water because water does not weigh more than water, so leave your clothes on. Additional layers of clothing can actually help you stay afloat by trapping air.

Number 9: Diving could be a neck-breaking experience, so never dive into unknown waters.

Number 8: Any beach that has breaking waves could have the potential to develop rip currents near the shore that can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. If you get caught in one of these narrow rip currents, swim parallel to shore until the current stops pushing you out.

Number 7: Never overestimate your swimming abilities, especially in open waters.

Number 6: Swim only in designated areas.

Number 5: Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.

Number 4: Swim and boat sober. Drinking alcohol doesn't only make you do things that you wished you had not done by impairing your judgment. People under the influence of alcohol have drown because they become disoriented underwater and think they are swimming to the water surface, but in reality they are swimming down.

Number 3: If you are boating, wear a life jacket even if you know how to swim and don't expect to enter the water. Falls overboard are one of the main reasons people drown because your first gasp (gasp reflex) after falling into the water can kill you because it only takes only 1 Tablespoon of water in your lungs to drown.

Number 2: Choose the right life jacket for you and wear it. The new inflatable life jackets are lightweight and the belt-pack style of inflatable life jacket will still allow you to get a great tan.

The Number 1 tip that could mean the difference between life and death during spring break: Don't let anyone talk you into anything that you don't want to do. You have a brain; use it because peer pressure can kill you. Don't let someone's actions or perceptions influence you to cross your stupid line. If you feel uncomfortable leave the situation and stay alive.

No one can remove all of the risks, but putting safety first and following these simple tips can help students to enjoy their spring break and make lots of memories. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopes that you have a safe and enjoyable spring break because you deserve it and your family wants you to return home safely.