What is free, convenient and could save a life this summer?
The answer: a program that provides free life jackets for boaters to borrow free of charge on Lake Minnetonka.
The program is called "Kids Don’t Float" and is a cooperative initiative on the part of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Safe Kids Northwest Metro Coalition and North Memorial.
The life jackets are available for use at three locations on Lake Minnetonka: Gray’s Bay, Spring Park Bay and Maxwell Bay.
At each of those public boat launches, boaters will see a large storage container with life jackets inside. The boxes are self-serve. Boaters simply remove a life jacket for their day of boating and return the life jacket when they leave the lake.
“Keeping everyone safe is essential to enjoying a day on the lake,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. “Please remember that putting a life jacket on a child is just as important as putting them in a seatbelt and it could save their life.”
While both adults and kids need life jackets while boating, the child-sized life jackets are often the items that are in short supply. Perhaps a son or daughter brought along a friend to go boating at the last minute—and the family forgot to bring along the extra life jacket.
“We want kids and adults to wear life jackets that fit properly to keep them safe on the lake,” said Patty Reicks, Pediatric Trauma Coordinator for North Memorial. “If a child is wearing an adult-sized life jacket that is too large, the child could slip out of it during a water emergency.”
Minnesota law requires that kids under age 10 wear a life jacket while any watercraft is underway. In addition, it is recommended that children of all ages wear life jackets while boating. Most boating fatalities take place due to falls overboard or capsizing – not collisions.
Sheriff Stanek stressed that life jackets are not just for boating. It is recommended that weak swimmers and non-swimmers also wear life jackets while swimming—in a lake, pool or any body of water.
"Adult supervision is still needed for children," Sheriff Stanek said.