Water safety beyond the pool

As we embark on No. 4 in our series of water safety articles, we look at swimming safely in lakes, streams, rivers and the ocean.

Water and weather preparedness

Plan trips by getting the forecast and knowing where you’ll be enjoying aquatic activities. Approved swim area? Lifeguards on duty? Keep an eye out for:

  • Unexpected changes in air or water temperature.
  • Fast-moving currents, waves and rapids, even in shallow water.
  • Hazards such as dams, rocks, debris floating on top of the water or on the bottom. Never dive head first into an unknown body of water.
  • Aquatic life and underwater vegetation.
  • Sudden drop off, ledge or change in water depth.
  • Surrounding people and boats.

Water safety at the waterfront

  • Ensure everyone knows how to swim.
  • Swim in designated areas with lifeguards.
  • Keep children under constant supervision. Do not get distracted.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices for non-swimmers or weak swimmers. Do not depend on water wings or inflatable toys.
  • Always swim with a buddy.

How to respond

If someone is missing:

  • Check the water first.
  • Alert the on-duty lifeguard.
  • Have someone call 9-1-1.

If someone is in trouble in the water, use the reach-throw method: Reach with a pole or other long-handled device or throw a buoy or other inflated device. Only go in if you are a trained water rescue person/lifeguard or if you can stand up in the body of water with your head above the water line. A drowning victim will very often pull their rescuer under.

Remember: Block-Watch-Learn

  • Anyone watching children who are in or around water must understand that drowning happens quickly and suddenly. Never take your eyes off of those you supervise. (Watch)
  • Any source of water is a potential drowning hazard especially for young children and weak swimmers. (Learn)
  • People can drown in as little as three inches of water. (Learn)
  • Know how to respond to a swimmer in distress and get everyone to swimming lessons. (Learn)

For more information on water safety and drown prevention, go to: http://rdcrss.org/1UKMhLF or http://www.preventdrownings.org/drowning/

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