BARROW, Alaska - The I�upiat of Barrow have a history on the
waters of the Arctic that can be traced back 1,500 years. They owe
their survival to the skills they've acquired subsisting off the
sea's bounty, and those skills include what they've learned about
safety. That's why the people of Barrow welcomed Rear Adm. Dan Abel,
commander, USCG 17th District, other Coast Guard personnel and
representatives of the Alaska Office of Boating Safety when they
brought the Kids Don't Float education program to the northernmost
community in the United States Feb. 3, 2016.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Dan Abel, commander, 17th district, hands
lifejackets to members of the Barrow, Alaska, community during a
Kids Don't Float event at the Barrow High School pool Feb. 3, 2016.
Abel and other Coast Guard personnel from the 17th District
demonstrated the effectiveness of several different types of
lifejackets and flotation devices during the class. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert)
Against the backdrop of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling
Commission mini-convention” that took place Feb. 1-5, 2016.
Adm. Abel and other Coast Guard officers from throughout
Alaska joined with Kelli Toth, Education Specialist for the
Alaska Office of Boating Safety, to demonstrate equipment
and methods of surviving exposure to frigid waters.
Garbed in an assortment of lifejackets and a plethora of
radios and flotation devices, Abel and his shipmates plunged
into the waters of the Barrow High School pool to
demonstrate the effectiveness of the equipment. Meanwhile
Toth and Mike Folkerts, 17th District boating safety expert,
spoke to a gathering of local whaling captains and
commissioners as well as subsistence hunters and their
children about the necessity of preparation when underway.
“Five out of six recreational boating fatalities in
Alaska, which includes subsistence hunting and fishing, are
the result of a capsizing, a swamping or falling overboard,”
said Toth. “That's why it's so important to have a dialog
with local community members about the importance of wearing
a life jacket, carrying emergency communication and distress
signaling devices and filing a float plan so people know
where to begin the search and rescue effort if a boater
Susan Hargis, Coast Guard 17th District tribal liaison, takes a spill into the Barrow High School pool from a seal hunting boat to demonstrate the effectiveness of a float coat during a Kids Don't Float class in Barrow, Alaska, Feb. 3, 2016. Kids Don't Float is an Alaska-wide injury prevention program that was developed to address Alaska's high child and youth drowning rate. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert)
The Kids Don't Float education
program has been taking its message of safety to Alaskan
communities since 1996 and, in addition to equipment
demonstrations, the class provides participants an
opportunity for some firsthand experience with submersion in
a controlled environment.
“Kids Don't Float
participants are offered a chance to get into the pool and
try the lifejackets and flotation devices for themselves
under the watchful eye of our instructors,” said Folkerts.
“There is no substitution for real experience when it comes
to training for safety and survival around the water.”
The Kids Don't Float education program reached over
17,000 children in 2015, a number Toth hopes to increase as
2016 begins and new communities are visited. For the Coast
Guard, the visit to Barrow provided a chance to build onto a
longstanding relationship with the North Slope.
of the Coast Guard's key priorities is the safety of life at
sea and, when it comes to Alaska, there's been a partnership
between the Coast Guard and the people of the Arctic that
bridges multiple generations to our days as the Revenue
Cutter Service,” said Abel. “What was true then, remains
true today: being prepared and having the right equipment
can mean the difference between life and death.”
By U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert
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