Summer Water Safety
For many families, the best memories are those of hot summer days spent by the pool or on the beach. This summer, families across Maryland are no doubt looking forward to days spent by the pool or trips to Ocean City or the Chesapeake Bay.
To maximize the good memories, it’s important that you know how to stay safe, and how to keep your children safe, in the water. A child can drown in less than two minutes after his or her head goes under water – leaving little time to help.
In 2010, there were 125 emergency department visits, 36 hospitalizations, and 70 deaths related to drowning in Maryland.
The first and foremost thing you can do is learn to swim. Everyone over the age of four should enroll in a swimming class. Some other general swimming safety tips are:
- Never swim alone.
- Do not chew gum or eat while swimming, diving, or playing in the water.
- Do not drink alcohol while swimming, boating, or water skiing.
- Do not use air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings, in place of life jackets or life preservers with children. Water wings do not prevent drowning and give a false sense of security.
- Do not swim if there is a thunderstorm impending.
- Adults should take a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course, to learn basic life-saving techniques in case of an emergency. Contact the Red Cross to enroll, www.redcross.org.
Among children ages 1 to 4 years, most drownings occur in residential swimming pools. Never leave young children alone around a pool, and be sure to restrict their access to the pool. A barrier, such as an isolation gate with self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward should surround the pool. The fence should be at least four feet high and should completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. Keep basic life saving equipment, such as a pole, rope, and throw-able personal flotation device, by the pool, and be sure that everyone knows how to use them.
A trip to the beach is fun for any family, but take precautions to keep yourself and your kids safe.
- Wear swimsuits with highly visible colors and stay within the designated swimming area so that the lifeguard can always see you.
- Avoid piers, pilings, and diving platforms when in the water, as well as patches of plants or other aquatic life.
- If you are caught in a rip current (water that is discolored, choppy, foamy, and filled with debris), swim parallel to the shore. Once you are out of the current, swim toward the shore.
And, though you may not plan to take a dip, it’s just as important to keep water safety in mind when boating.
- Always wear a life jacket with the U.S. Coast Guard seal of approval.
- Have an approved flotation device attached to a long rope on board.
- Be aware of the weather report, and pay attention because the weather may quickly change.