Wear a life jacket and stay safe

You can borrow a life jacket at 28 Duke Energy locations in the Carolinas

Summer’s most essential accessory isn’t a beach coverup or new fishing gear.

It’s a worn life vest. And Duke Energy is helping ensure everyone who enjoys spending time in and around Carolinas lakes is equipped with one.

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The free life jacket loaner board at South Point Access area on Lake Wylie.

Duke Energy offers 28 life jacket loaner stations on 11 lakes, rivers and creeks in North Carolina and South Carolina. New ones have been added at various public access areas – on the expansive site at Molly Creek on Lake Wateree in South Carolina, for instance.

Duke Energy builds and installs the loaner stations. It works with community groups, churches and lake associations to stock and maintain the life jackets.

“Each kiosk may look a little different depending on who the sponsor is,” said Christy Churchill, Duke Energy project manager for some of the lake recreation areas. “We work with HOAs, Rotary Clubs, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and more to maintain these life jacket loaner boards.”

Visitors borrow them free of charge. Some people leave their life own jackets behind to donate to the cause.

North Carolina’s boating law requires anyone younger than 13 to wear a life jacket when on a recreational vessel. In South Carolina, the age is 12.

Safety first

Click for life jacket loan locations.

  • Never swim alone. Have someone on shore watching with throw rings ready. Take turns being the spotter.
  • Water conditions can change. Water conditions are not the same everywhere and neither is water depth. The lake bottom can change depth suddenly.
  • Don’t discount fatigue. A life jacket can buoy you when you’re more tired than you realize.
  • Monitor alcohol use. Drinking and boating (or swimming) is like drinking and driving. Alcohol also dehydrates you. When you’re drinking in the sun, you’ll feel tipsy faster. Stay hydrated with water.
  • Use a life jacket. It’s not enough to have it on a boat. Wear it!

“Safety should be a top priority when recreating on water,” the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website says. “The agency has responded to numerous boating incidents that resulted in drownings in the past few weeks. These incidents may have been avoided if life jackets were worn.”

“We cannot stress how important it is for you to wear a personal flotation device, or PFD, while boating, whether it be recreating, swimming or fishing,” said Capt. Branden Jones with the Wildlife Commission.

“In 2021, 23 people lost their lives on North Carolina waters; 16 of them were not wearing a life vest. PFDs save lives, but they won’t work if you don’t wear them.”

Children outgrow life vests. So if you’re buying a life jacket for your child this summer, always check for a U.S. Coast Guard-approved label, matching it to the child’s weight and have the child try it on, making sure it is snug but comfortable.

It’s the law to have one life jacket per person onboard your boat. Adults should wear theirs, too. Accidents can happen quickly, and there often isn’t time to grab one. A worn life jacket does just what its name implies.