Boaters young and old on Lake Samish and Lake Whatcom can now borrow life jackets, thanks to the effort of a revived local group, Safe Kids Whatcom County.
The coalition is a chapter of Safe Kids USA, a nationwide organization that promotes safety for kids 13 and younger.
A kiosk-like structure with life jackets and safety information was installed several weeks ago at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife boat launch on the east side of Lake Samish, and a similar station is in the works for Bloedel Donovan Park, at the north end of Lake Whatcom.
At Lake Samish, about a dozen life jackets for children and adults hang available for people to borrow and return on the honor system.
Life jacket are also available at Birch Bay and Larrabee state parks, at the Community Boating Center in Fairhaven, at Semiahmoo Marina, at the county's Silver Lake and Lake Samish parks, and at the Port of Bellingham's Squalicum and Blaine marinas.
In Washington, children 11 and younger must wear a life jacket while aboard smaller boats, and people must wear one when they're on a personal watercraft or are being towed behind a vessel.
Otherwise, boats - including canoes, rafts and kayaks - must have a life jacket available for each person aboard, but the boater isn't required to wear it at all times.
Safe Kids Whatcom County was organized about a decade ago, fell into a lull, and then revived three years ago with Whatcom County Fire District No. 7, Ferndale, taking the lead, said Erika Work, a public educator for South Whatcom Fire Authority, a member of the coalition.
Along with a focus on water safety, the coalition works on bicycle and pedestrian safety; fire safety; and child passenger safety through the inspection of children's car seats.
Support for the life jacket program includes a grant from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and materials donated by Vander Griend Lumber in Lynden, Work said.
Other supporters of Safe Kids Whatcom County include the county Health Department, Lynden Fire Department, Whatcom County Traffic Safety Commission, Whatcom Council of Governments, Firefighters for Fun, D & D Insurance Agency in Ferndale, Alcoa Intalco Works; International Association of Firefighters Local 106, D & D Insurance Agency in Ferndale, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, Columbia Distributing, Chelsey Ebert Trust, Lynden Firefighters Association, and Sudden Valley, District 7 and District 11 firefighters.
The annual benefit luncheon for Safe Kids Whatcom County will be held Dec. 7 at a location to be announced. People interested in the coalition, or who want to help, should contact Larry Hoffman, assistant chief at District 7, at 360-384-0303 or email@example.com.
Reach DEAN KAHN at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2291.