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Live Well Polk: Stay Safe on the Water

May 24, 2019

As temperatures rise and the school year wraps up, more and more people put on their swimsuits, load up their skis and head to the creek, lake or river. It’s a great way to put the work week in the rear view mirror, but the one thing that should never be left behind is common sense about lake safety.

The American Red Cross offers the following guidelines to help you have a safe, fun summer on the water.

Be Aware

When you are near open water, look out for:

♦ Unexpected changes in air or water temperature.

♦ Fast-moving currents, waves and rapids, even in shallow water.

♦ Hazards, such as dams, underwater obstacles, or rocks or debris moving on the surface or along the bottom of the water.

♦ Aquatic life, such as vegetation that could entangle feet or animals that live in, on or around the water.

♦ Sudden drop-offs that change water depth.

♦ Other people sharing the waters, particularly other boaters.

Be Smart

Planning ahead and staying informed can help keep everyone in your group safe. Remember to:

♦ Be aware of the potential hazards of the area you are visiting and take appropriate precautions.

♦ Check water and weather conditions before your trip and frequently during your stay.

♦ Watch for signs of severe weather and leave the water at the first indication of thunder and lightning. In the event of an electrical storm, stay inside an enclosed area for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap. If outside, avoid open areas, tall, isolated trees or metal objects.

♦ Know the abilities of those going with you, including swimming abilities and level of supervision required. Be sure to provide appropriate supervision.

Be Safe

♦ Ensure that everyone in your family learns to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate learn-to-swim courses.

♦ Swim only in areas that are designated for swimming with buoys and ropes and are supervised by lifeguards.

♦ Keep children under constant active supervision and remain free from distractions. Ensure that inexperienced swimmers stay within arm’s reach.

♦ Have weak swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are in, on or around water. Do not rely upon water wings or inflatable toys; they can enable swimmers to go beyond their ability or suddenly deflate, which could lead to a drowning situation.

Be Diligent

♦ Always swim with a buddy.

♦ Always enter unknown or shallow water cautiously, feet first.{/li}♦

♦ Dive only in water clearly marked as safe for diving. Diving areas should be at least 9 feet deep with no underwater obstacles.

♦ Do not enter the water from a height, such as a tree, ledge or bridge.

♦ Be careful when standing to prevent being knocked over by currents or waves.

♦ Do not use alcohol and/or drugs before or while swimming, diving or supervising swimmers.

Be Ready If a child is missing, always check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability from drowning.

♦ If present, always alert the lifeguard in the event of an emergency.

♦ Know how and when to call 9-1-1.

♦ Learn how to respond to aquatic and other emergencies by taking Red Cross first aid, CPR and water safety courses.

♦ Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.