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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Safety on the Water: Keeping Things Fun, While Maintaining a Safe Environment

FunCat boat safety

May is National Water Safety Month! The purpose of this campaign is to bring into focus the importance of water safety in all types of swimming and aquatic environments. Swimming and other water-related activities are increasingly popular this time of year, so it’s helpful to be reminded of safe water practices. The American Red Cross, World Waterpark Association, National Recreation and Park Association, and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals are partners in coordinating the awareness campaign.

Statistics make it clear how important it is to communicate information regarding water safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2005-2014, there were 3,536 fatal, unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States. Additionally, over 300 people die each year from drowning in boating-related incidents. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. The following recommendations will help your family have fun on the water while staying safe.

Learn to Swim!
child swimming - water safetySurprisingly, over 50% of Americans can't swim. Learning to swim is one of the most important ways to prevent water safety accidents. Getting kids into formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. Check with your local YMCA facility or swim school for a list of upcoming classes and sign up! Adults should not only learn basic swimming skills, but should consider adding water safety training to their repertoire of parenting skills. The Red Cross offers a variety of classes and life-saving training opportunities, from first aid to CPR. Check out some of the programs here.

Friend and Family Time
Lifeguard sleeping
The water is more fun with friends! Always swim with at least one companion. Don’t allow anyone to swim alone, even at pools or beaches with lifeguards. It’s a good idea to keep a cell phone nearby, in case there is a need to call for help. When you’re boating, be sure to go with a friend or two. Equip your boat with appropriate life jackets - and wear them! Even good swimmers should be properly equipped with life jackets. While boating and swimming, stay alert for dangerous waves or signs of rip currents. Some visual signs of potentially unsafe water include: water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore.

photo courtesy
Monitor Children In And Around Water
Never leave a child unattended around the water. Appoint a responsible adult as the “water watcher” so children are monitored at all times. Stay within arm’s reach of little ones and stay focused. Remove toys from the water when the kids are not playing with them. Toys can be a powerful attraction to inexperienced or untrained swimmers. Train children in safe practices such as walking – not running – at the pool. Always brief babysitters on water safety, emphasizing the need for constant supervision. Additionally, remind those in charge that not all water accidents include splashing and noise. Relying on sound to assure safety is not adequate.

Create a Safe Pool Environment
pool safety gate
A safe pool is a fun pool. There are many things you can do to improve the safety of your backyard pool. Start with a professionally built swimming pool that meets local codes. If you have an existing outdoor pool, it should be enclosed with a four-sided, sturdy fence that completely separates the pool area from the house and yard. The fence should be at least 4 feet high. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children. Additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms can prevent access or alert you if someone enters the pool area. Add a safety cover, and upgrade to a pool pump with a safety vacuum release system (SVRS). Maintaining your pool on a regular basis will also go a long way to keeping the environment safe. Added safety measures should include keeping a phone within easy reach, and having a first aid kit nearby, whenever the pool is in use.

Boating Safety Measures
Take a course and know the signs! Most states require a boating license, but even if it is not required, taking a class or two to learn about boating safety can prevent unnecessary accidents. Understanding the signs you will see along waterways, such as the various markers and signals, can prevent accidents and ensure that you have a fun and memorable experience. Check out these boating safety tips from the US Coast Guard.

Spending time on the water, having fun, and enjoying time with loved ones in a safe environment can create lasting, happy memories. What are you doing to promote safety in and around the water?

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