Our family is new to Rio Rancho, and we were very disappointed to learn this summer that U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests are not allowed to be used at any of the city pools.

The City of Rio Rancho’s policy not only differs from that of neighboring cities, but it is in direct contradiction to the Red Cross and U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations for water safety for children.

Per the Red Cross:

“Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.” And: “Young children or inexperienced swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket whenever they are in, on or around water. Some waterparks may prohibit the use of life jackets on some attractions.”

Per the CDC:

“Make life jackets a must. Make sure kids wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. Life jackets can be used in and around pools for weaker swimmers, too.”

According to research conducted by the Aquatic Safety Resource Group, city pools that implemented the national “Note and Float” program (use of USCG life vests by non-swimmers accompanied by direct parental supervision) found that rescue attempts by lifeguards decreased by up to 70-80 percent, while enrollment in swim lessons at city facilities greatly increased.

The city of Phoenix is a participant in the free “Note and Float” program and received their life jackets at no cost.

Additionally, the ASRG has presented evidence in court that there are more cases of drowning fatalities under direct supervision alone compared to the combination of supervision and the use of a USCG life vest. The CDC lists drowning as the second-leading cause of unintentional death for children aged 1-14.

The Red Cross recommends multiple layers of protection be used when recreating around water.

We can all agree that the layer of supervision is absolutely critical, but as shown above, even that is not enough.

Why then, despite the evidence and recommendations above, does the City of Rio Rancho insist on removing a proven layer of protection?

What evidence can the city present that proves that the removal of USCG life jackets actually saves more lives and decreases rescue attempts?

Ultimately, public policy should be based on research-based data and expert body recommendations. I hope the city will update its policy to reflect these facts and recommendations.

I’m confident that the city’s goal is to save lives, so let its public policy reflect that which is proven to save lives.

Andrea McCarthy

Rio Rancho