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Governor Ivey Celebrates Safe Boating Week with Donation from Academy

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey joined in the celebration of Safe Boating Week at the Academy Sports + Outdoors store in Montgomery earlier this week as Academy donated $5,000 worth of life jackets to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR).

"I am pleased to join you and our Conservation Enforcement Officers (CEOs) as we recognize Safe Boating Week," Governor Ivey said. "I am also pleased and grateful as we recognize Academy Sports + Outdoors for their generous donation of 360 personal flotation devices to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

"As we head into Safe Boating Week and Memorial Day Weekend, I remind Alabamians to be safe as they go onto our waterways with their families and friends. And what a great way to emphasize water safety by thanking Academy for their generous donation. This is the first year that the Department will launch their own water safety initiative, the Life Jacket Loaner Program."

Cody Reid, Academy's Senior Regional Marketing Specialist, said the company did not hesitate to make the large donation of life jackets.

"These life jackets are going to be used to make sure that those who maybe forgot their life jacket and left it at home or if the conditions are a little rough on the river or the lake, the Conservation officers and State Parks will have these life jackets readily available for any boater or swimmer to still have fun and be safe," Reid said. "The Conservation Department is such a great partner with Academy. We look forward to this partnership for years to come and show our appreciation for what the Department does and make sure anyone who enjoys the outdoors will have fun and be safe."

ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the life jackets will be distributed to officers and personnel in the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Marine Resources, State Lands, and State Parks divisions throughout the state.

"These life jackets will help our officers when they are out patrolling if they come across a boat with unserviceable life jackets," Commissioner Blankenship said. "Before we might just write them a ticket but not be able to provide them with a life jacket to be safe and get back to the dock. This really gives them the opportunity to educate the public and provide life jackets to people who need them.

"At our State Parks, we've had about a dozen drownings since I've been Commissioner. That's very tragic. Having the life jackets that can be loaned out for the day and then put back for the next user should save lives. I'm really excited about that and our partnership with Academy and them recognizing the need for this program and what it's going to mean for the safety of the people who enjoy the outdoors."

Governor Ivey said an enormous number of Alabamians will be outdoors and on the waterways during the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend and encouraged everyone to wear a life jacket.

"Folks, this weekend, I know I will be out on my pontoon boat enjoying the lake, and you better believe my dog, Missy, and I will be wearing our life jackets," Governor Ivey said. "Cody and everyone at Academy, thank you for helping keep Alabamians safe. And to Commissioner Blankenship and all of our Conservation officers, thank you for all you do. Have a safe Memorial Day Weekend as we remember all those who gave their lives protecting our freedom. May God continue to bless each of you, the great state of Alabama and the United States of America."

Academy first considered a smaller donation to the Department but substantially increased that number when Commissioner Blankenship explained how many ADCNR personnel would be involved in the loaner program.

"When we looked at how many officers we have and how big our state is, having that larger number of life jackets will make a big difference," Commissioner Blankenship said. "When I brought State Parks up with Academy and the need there, they were all over that. They added more life jackets to make sure we covered it all.

"Academy has been a great partner. Just this last weekend, they offered a 20% discount to all of our State Parks guests. A lot of people availed themselves of that and bought a bunch of stuff they needed for camping and their outdoor recreation needs. That was 20% off the entire order with no restrictions. Those types of Academy promotions have been for our State Parks users and, earlier this year, those who bought hunting and fishing licenses. If you add all that together, that's a great benefit for our users, and I appreciate our partnership with Academy."

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Sgt. Kirk Smith said when they are patrolling on the water, checking for safety equipment is at the top of the list.

"We check for life jackets and all the safety equipment required," Sgt. Smith said. "That's just part of it. I tell everyone to use common sense on the water. Keep safety in mind. If one life jacket saves one life, it's worth every single bit of money that goes into this program.

"Be sure to check your equipment before you launch the boat. Make sure there are no rips or tears in your life jackets and the nylon straps and buckles are in good shape. Replace that equipment if needed. It needs to be serviceable. The cost of the life jacket is nothing compared to the cost of a life."

Matthew Capps, State Parks Deputy Director, said the donation is definitely a win for State Parks.

"We feel like we can put these life preservers in our State Parks with lakes on a loaner program, and people can stay safe," Capps said. "That's what we want, for everybody to have a safe, enjoyable visit to our beautiful State Parks."

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show 75 percent of those who drowned in recreational boating accidents were not wearing life jackets.

The National Safe Boating Council recommends these tips for boaters:

Take a boating safety course. Gain valuable knowledge and on-water experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters.

Check equipment. Schedule a free vessel safety check with the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons to make sure all essential equipment is present, working and in good condition.

Make a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information, boat type and registration, and communication equipment on board before you leave the dock.

Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket – every time. A stowed life jacket is of no use in an emergency.

Use an engine cut-off switch – it's the law. An engine cut-off switch is a proven safety device to stop a powerboat engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.

Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during the excursion.

Know what's going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating incidents in 2022 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.

Know where you're going and travel at safe speeds. Be familiar with the area, local boating speed zones, and always travel at a safe speed.

Never boat under the influence. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.

Keep in touch. Have more than one communication device that works when wet. VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones, and cell phones can all be important devices in an emergency.


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