COMMENTARY: Water safety at the beach, pool and water park

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COMMENTARY: Water safety at the beach, pool and water park

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Warmer weather means more people are spending time in a pool, at the beach or visiting a water park. The American Red Cross has some steps people can follow to help them enjoy their summer water fun.

“It’s important to be ‘water smart,’ which includes having swimming skills and knowing how to help others,” said Guillermo Sanchez, preparedness and resiliency manager at American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. “The first step should be to make sure everyone is ‘water competent’– meaning that they are able to enter the water, get a breath, stay afloat, find an exit, swim a distance and then get out of the water safely.”

Beach safety
• If you plan to swim in the ocean, a lake or river, be aware that swimming in these environments is different than swimming in a pool. Be sure you have the skills for these environments.
• Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards and ask them about local conditions.
• Make sure you swim sober and that you always swim with a buddy. Know your limitations and make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
• Protect your neck– don’t dive in headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters. Watch out for and avoid aquatic life.
• If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic. Signal to those on shore that you need assistance. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, swim toward the shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward the shore.

Pool safety
• Prevent unsupervised access to water. If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers. Many children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time.
• Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
• Actively supervise children and stay within arm’s reach of young children and new swimmers. Designate a “water watcher” to keep a close eye and constant attention on children and weaker swimmers in and around the water until the next water watcher takes over.
• Teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
• Avoid distractions when supervising children around water. If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.

Waterpark safety
• Make sure lifeguards are on duty before you go in the water and follow all their instructions.
• Read the attraction signs. Obey the rules. Follow age and height requirements.
• Parents: keep an eye on the kids. If they can’t swim or are less than four feet tall, have them wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
• Signal a lifeguard if you see someone is in trouble. Yell if you need to grab attention, but don’t go in after the person yourself.
• Set up a meeting place in case someone gets separated from your group. Use the buddy system to make sure no child is alone.

A variety of water safety courses and resources are available at redcross.org/watersafety. Find an aquatic facility that offers Red Cross programs for the entire family at www.redcross.org/learntoswimproviders. Download the free Red Cross Swim app. Pool and spa owners can take the Home Pool Essentials online course at homepoolessentials.org.