News, Public Saftey

Swim safely: Water safety is a family affair

by Kate Evans

It’s that time of year when everyone enjoys cooling off in the water. Whether it’s in a public swimming pool, local lake, river or stream, home swimming pool or by the ocean, water is a favorite source of relief from the heat.

A few tips can help families stay safe as they play around water, to keep the summer fun rolling.

Unfortunately, drowning is a leading cause of death in children in the United States.

The American Red Cross, the National Weather Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UPMC Children’s Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic recommend several key things to prevent tragedy around water.

Everyone should know how to swim and know how to prevent and respond to a water emergency, Red Cross officials stress. If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count.

General tips

Courtesy of American Red Cross

Never swim alone, regardless of your age or swimming expertise. Always swim with a buddy. Don’t let anyone else swim alone.

Pay close and constant attention to children in or near the water, even if a lifeguard is present. Small children should be supervised at all times.

Supervise others in the water while sober and without distractions like reading or talking on or using a cell phone.

Swim in designated areas that are supervised by lifeguards.

Only swim when sober. Children and adults should stay well-hydrated while swimming and take regular breaks to not become fatigued.

Enter water feet first for safety.

Dive only in water clearly marked as safe for diving that’s at least nine feet deep with no underwater obstacles.

Make sure children know to always ask permission to go near the water.

Assign someone as a water watcher and stay within arm’s reach of young children.

Ensure that young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water.

Water wings, swim rings, inflatable toys or other water flotation devices do not replace adult supervision.

Home pool safety

Secure your backyard swimming pool when not in use to prevent unsupervised access to the water.

Completely enclose your home pool with a four-sided fence that’s at least four feet high with a self-closing and self-latching gate that’s out of the reach of a child.

Install anti-entrapment drain covers.

For above-ground pools, secure or remove steps, ladders or anything that can be used for pool access like outdoor furniture or toys whenever the pool isn’t being actively supervised by an adult.

Install door alarms and locks that are out of the reach of a child on all doors and windows with direct access to the pool area.

Remove all pool toys after swimming so small children aren’t tempted to go into the water unsupervised.

Keep small backyard pools empty and deflated when not in use.

Be prepared

Make sure every family member learns how to swim well and knows what to do in a water emergency.

Enroll family members in Red Cross water safety, home pool safety and learn-to-swim courses.

Take first aid and CPR/AED classes to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies and how to safely help someone that’s in trouble in the water.

Call 9-1-1 in case of water emergencies.

Equip the pool area with reaching or throwing equipment like a rope, a cell phone to call for help, life jackets and a first aid kit.

Lakes, rivers and streams

If swimming in natural environments, such as lakes, rivers or streams or at the ocean, always enter unknown or shallow water feet first and with caution.

Watch out for fast-moving currents, waves, rapids and underwater obstructions.

Look out for hazards such as dams, underwater obstacles, rocks or debris along with drop-offs that can quickly change the water depth.

Watch for vegetation, animals and fish and other people’s activities in nearby waters such as boating.

Watch the weather

Watch for sudden storms and changes in the air and water temperature. If there is thunder or lightning, leave the water immediately and try to find shelter.

If you’re outside, avoid open areas, tall, isolated trees and metal objects.

Never let children swim during a storm or when there is lightning.

Safety at the beach

Always swim in a lifeguarded area.

Check weather and water conditions and read and heed beach safety advisories and warning flags. Green flags mean water conditions are safe while other colors mean aren’t safe, conditions according to the National Weather Service.

Leave the water immediately if you’re swimming off shore if there is thunder and lightning.

Rip currents

Rip currents can form in any large open water area or near structures like jetties and piers. Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties which may have permanent rip currents nearby.

If you’re caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the rip current. Then turn and swim to shore.

Or float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then swim to shore. Wave and call for help if you can’t make it to shore.

If you see someone caught in a rip current or in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If no lifeguard is available, call 9-1-1. Try to throw the person an item that floats. Don’ t attempt a rescue yourself unless you are a trained beach lifeguard.