COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As the number of water rescues and drowning deaths continues to rise on the Chattahoochee River, Columbus Fire and EMS say they're pushing their message of safety now more than ever.
Columbus rescue officials say with every call they respond to most of the situations they are seeing all have one thing in common and almost all of those situations are preventable.
"It is frustrating for our rescuers to have to see this time and time again," says Columbus Fire Marshall, Chief Ricky Shores.
Shores says it's a message too many people around the Chattahoochee River aren't listening to.
"There are several different situations where people can drown. It doesn't just have to be in the river."
But the 2.5-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River, located in the heart of Uptown Columbus, has been the recent destination for 3 drowning deaths and multiple river rescues.
Shores says, "You need to understand your own limitations and understand the town that you're in."
As stated in Columbus City Ordinance Section 14-45:
If you don't follow that ordinance you're subject to a fine or even further consequences according to Columbus Police.
"It's not that much different from seeing people perish in a house fire that doesn't have a properly working smoke detector when we've been preaching that for decades."
But Shores says the drownings and water rescues will continue to happen frequently until people get the message.
"You just need to make sure you have that personal floatation device that is fitted for you if you are going to be in and around that water."
With this weekend's Columbus Triathlon happening along the river, Ordinance Section 14-45 does have an exception for swimming and competitive events, not requiring a life jacket for competitors as long as rescue personnel is present.
But Shores still encourages even the strongest swimmers to be smart when it comes to the dangerous water currents.