Grant money buys life jackets for LFD

The City of Lebanon’s Tourism Committee has awarded the Lebanon Fire District a tourism grant of $4,500 for the District’s new life jacket program. Committee chairperson Don Fountain presented the check to Lebanon Division Chief Jason Bolen this week.

“We are thrilled and so grateful to receive these grant funds,” Bolen said.

The program will see the construction of three permanent kiosks in the Lebanon area – one at Gill’s Landing/River Park on E. Grant Street, and two in Waterloo County Park east of Lebanon. The kiosks will be located near each location’s boat ramps and swimming areas and will be designed to hold upwards of 12 life jackets of various adult and child sizes.

Lebanon’s Deputy Fire Marshal Ken Foster designed the kiosks and will begin constructing them over the next few weeks.

“Ken has done a great job of designing a safe, accessible kiosk that will be built to last using quality materials. Both the City of Lebanon and Linn County are working with us to assist with locating the kiosks on their properties and helping us prep the sites for installation, so we’re very grateful for their support and participation,” Bolen noted. “This is really a team effort by the community.”

Visitors to the parks can follow the bilingual instructions posted at each kiosk to properly size themselves or a loved one for a US Coast Guard approved life jacket and can use the jacket free of charge, then return it to the kiosk to be used again. Similar programs are in place in multiple locations in Oregon, including Albany and Jefferson.

“The idea is to offer a crucial piece of protection to someone heading out onto or into the water who would otherwise take the risk of boating or swimming without it.” Bolen said.

The Lebanon Fire District responds to numerous water rescue and water assist calls each year, and most of the victims they encounter are not wearing approved personal flotation devices.

“The river may look calm and gentle, but it’s so important to remember that water is absolutely unforgiving when someone finds themselves in trouble. Tragedy can occur in an instant, and if this program can prevent just one of those tragedies then all of this work will be worth it.”

Bolen says LFD’s Fire & Life Safety Division will be budgeting for the maintenance of the life jacket program in years to come, but the tourism grant will allow them to get the program in place for the upcoming summer rather than wait until next year to launch. While the jackets are loaned on the honor system, he notes that similar programs report 15 to 20 percent annual losses from jackets which are lost or stolen. To deter theft the jackets will be obviously branded as loaners, but Bolen believes that the Lebanon community and its visitors will respect the intent of the program and do a good job of self-policing. He sees the life jackets being made available from spring fishing season through fall in order to provide the most opportunity for use from boaters, swimmers, and fall fishermen. In the winter time the jackets will be collected for maintenance, inventory, and repair or replacement as needed.

Part of our mission at Lebanon Fire is to reduce community risk and we are always looking for ways to do a better job of risk reduction for our citizens and the people who visit Lebanon. We’re excited to get this program up and running.”

A number of Lebanon businesses have already pledged financial support for this program, including Summit Ace Home & Garden, and Farmers Insurance agent Kerry Whitlatch.

For more information about the life jacket program contact the Lebanon Fire District at 541-451-1901.