Respect the Water: Life-Saving Safety Tips

It is that time of year.  Flip-flops, sunny days, and the sound of kids jumping off the diving board are just a few indications that summer is here.  With summer comes fun with responsibility to ensure a safe time is had by all.  Here are some important tips and information to make sure your family has a safe and memorable summer this year, whether you are heading to the pool, beach, or lake.

 The phrase “respect the water” may seem trivial to some, but according to a recent Center for Disease Control report on children and teen accidents, nearly 1,000 deaths occurred in 2009 as a result of drowning.  The number one site for drowning accidents is the pool.  Regardless of where you will be taking a dip this summer, remember that everyone is vulnerable around the water. 

An important first step is to start teaching children to swim at an early age.  The risk for drowning deaths is cut by 88 percent when children 1 to 4 years old take swim lessons.  Children who can swim on their own are certainly safer in the water, but not drown-proof.  Make sure an adult is watching the children when swimming at all times.  Do not get distracted by your phone, running to get something to eat or drink, or talking with other people.  Remind children to stay away from pool drains, pipes, or other openings.  If you are a pool or spa owner, make sure your drains are compliant to prevent entrapments before they happen.  Inspect your drain cover regularly to make sure it’s not broken or missing. 

With 72 percent of drowning deaths occurring at home pools, it is important to survey the area and make sure children cannot easily get or fall into the pool.  Secure fencing around the pool and property with kid-proof locks should be installed.  Also, take all pool toys out once children leave the pool to make sure they won’t try to reach in and grab the toys, or be lured back into the pool.  Do not rely on pool toys, like noodles, to keep children safe and upright.  You may want to research various door, window, and pool alarms to provide an additional measure of security, however, remember nothing can replace the eyes of an adult.  Don’t let the presence of fencing or alarms replace adult supervision whether children are swimming or near a pool.

When heading out to the lake or beach, there are special considerations to take in mind, as swimming in the lake or ocean is much different than swimming in a pool.  Make sure to check with the health department for any reports of water-bourne illnesses or unsafe swimming conditions.  When jumping into the lake, remember you may not be able to see exactly what you are jumping into or any debris under the surface.  Do not jump head first and swim in approved areas.  Swimming in lakes and oceans requires more energy than swimming in a pool due to currents and other conditions.  Do not let yourself get too far away and think you will be able to swim back.  Stay close to the shore or other people you are with to make sure you can be seen and heard at all times.

Choose a beach that is patrolled and guarded.  The chances of drowning are 1 in 18 million if a lifeguard is present, according to the President of the United States Lifesaving Association.  Always heed the advice of lifeguards and warning signs should water conditions change.  Stay with a buddy or group, stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and stay safe.  Have a fun and enjoyable summer this year!