After another deep freeze, we’re all raising our hands in praise that we survived the brutal winter. As we’re now well into the thaw and many of us are already preparing for summer you know what that means…Take off those sweaters, throw on the sandals, pull your sun hat from the attic and get ready for some summer fun in the water!
Now, before you run straight for the shore and jump in like a maniac who’s never seen water, we’d like to make sure you’ve checked the box for safety before you or your loved ones leap in. Don’t worry, we promise we won’t say you’ll need to suit up with inflatables so that you look like a sumo wrestler or make you take a week-long course before you feel ‘safe’ enough to dip your foot into the water. Most of the water safety tips we’ll share with you are common sense but I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase before, common sense isn’t so common these days.
Although there are many dangers that are associated with the water such as hypothermia, we’ll focus on one of the greatest dangers which almost always is avoidable.
What’s the biggest threat when it comes to water safety?
No matter how well you can swim or think you know how to stay safe in the water, there are numerous deaths reported on a regular basis from drowning. North American statistics show that the most vulnerable groups at risk for drowning are children between the ages of`1-4 and men 15-44. For the younger ages, drowning can occur in as little as a few centimeters of water which is precisely why we need to be vigilant with water safety. We’re certain that keeping you and your family safe this summer and out of danger is of your utmost concern which is why we’d like to help and offer some helpful reminders and water safety tips for the summer.
5 Water Safety Tips
Before we delve in we’d like to make sure that it’s clearly understood that swimming skills alone will not prevent drowning; a knowledge of safety is just as equally important if not more!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool, wake boarding on the lake or snorkeling in open water, if you want to eliminate yours and your families risk of drowning, we suggest you pay close attention to our suggested water safety tips.
It’s common to listen to many parents say, ‘I only looked away for a second’ when you hear about a drowning incident. It’s extremely important for parents to keep their eyes on their children while they’re near water; let’s also remember that lifeguards are there to save lives, not to act as babysitters.
Supervision is essential especially when you need to jump in and provide assistance. You should always be within an arms reach of a child who is swimming.
No matter what age, it’s best to apply the buddy system when going into the water. If you were to hit your head for example and no one is around to help, your condition may worsen and could lead to greater risk of casualty should you become unconscious.
*Pro Tip* Let the kids help set the rules; they’re more likely to follow them!
- Horseplay in the water just calls for danger. Catching someone off guard by dunking them in the water may seem like a good joke but it could turn bad very fast.
- If the water goes above their belly button they shouldn’t swim in it. If you have to enforce a time out system every time the rule is broken, do so; safety needs to be number one.
Teens & Adults
- Alcohol consumption and water activities prove disastrous; don’t mix them!
- Diving head first should be avoided unless the depth of the water is known and absence of obstacles is certain.
Use the Right Tools
Life Jackets (PFD)
- Personal Flotation Devices, apply a vital lifesaving technique. The best Coast Guard Approved life jackets are designed to turn an unconscious person from a face down position to face up in the water, allowing them to breathe.
- Children should wear proper fitting youth life jackets when near any body of water.
- Choose the right life jacket specifically for the activity you plan to do. Make sure it is fitted properly, not too loose and all straps are done up as instructed.
- Inflatable aids are good for staying afloat but by no means should replace a life jacket.
This isn’t such an obvious piece of water safety gear but let me tell you why we recommend it. The ability to see in the water is especially important for children. For example, when swimming in pools, being able to open their eyes, without irritation under water, will allow them to identify and stay a safe distance from drains and suctions. When swimming in open water a good pair of youth goggles reduce the risk of hitting any underwater obstacles such as rocks, the pool deck, or even another swimmer.
Teaching kids they need to wait for an adult before they get in the water will enforce to them that active supervision is required for their safety.
Consider talking a basic CPR course if you’re going to be supervising anyone in the water; this knowledge with help you feel more comfortable if/when you need to apply these life saving techniques.
Don’t push your limits
For some reason, we all seem to think we’re superman and will never lose a battle but let me tell you, the easiest battle to lose is one where you put yourself in a situation you aren’t prepared for. To put it simply, know your skill level in the water and make sure that the body of water you plan to swim in matches your capabilities.
Just because you may be use to swimming continuous laps or be able to hold your breath for long periods in a pool doesn’t mean anything when you get caught up in a current in open water. REMEMBER, if you ever get caught in a current, stay calm and float with the current or swim parallel to the shore, NEVER fight a current!
Since kids often won’t know their limits in the water, they must be taught to recognize when they are feeling fatigued so that they can take short rests. Floating on their back as well as teaching them to come up for air before they feel they need it are both great techniques for preventing fatigue. Teaching them to stay hydrated during their water activities is also good for keeping their energy levels up.
General Safety Tips – Home Pools
- All home pools should be surrounded, on all four sides, by a 4 foot fence.
- Check for openings that children could possibly fit through; seal off all possible entries.
- Install a self latching gate; the height should be out of reach of a child.
- Consider installing a pool alarm for instant notifications when the gate is opened.
- When not in use, drain the pool; if inflatable, turn upside down so it can’t fill during a rainfall.
- Fit your pool with anti-entrapment drain covers.
- Keep a Shepherd’s hook, a long pole with hook at the end, and life preserver next to the pool.
Quick Note on Hypothermia
If you notice that you’re starting to shiver, have trouble breathing, are experiencing a decreased attention span, you may be undergoing the process of hypothermia. If this happens, get out of the water as fast as safely possible. If you cannot escape the water and you’re wearing a PFD assume The HELP position. Whilst in The Help position, it is vital to stay calm and not try to swim; this will help conserve energy.
Keeping you and your loved ones safe this summer isn’t a difficult task if you’re committed to implementing safety into your summer routine. Most drowning incidents are preventable and with a bit of education and understanding of safety techniques, staying safe won’t be a challenge. With this said, no matter what we do to protect ourselves, no person is 100% water safe even if they have lots of experience in the water.
Unpredictable conditions in open water due to changes in weather, waves, currents and tides can take you by surprise which is why you must be diligent and pay close attention to signalling flags on beaches, which are there to notify of changing conditions; follow them religiously. Lastly, please remember that flotation devices such as life jackets are great but they will and can not replace adult supervision. Active supervision, swimming ability and a solid knowledge of safety will be your best defenses to ensure you stay safe.
Featured Image Source: Karate Athlete