Swimming, boating and other water activities are some of the best ways to beat the heat when the summer temperatures reach scorching levels. But water activities can also present some risks and dangers to you and your family’s safety. These water safety tips, courtesy of the American Red Cross, will help you stay safe in, on, and around the water!
In the warm months, it's also important to watch for signs of heat stroke. During heat stroke, a person's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working, which can lead to brain damage and in the worst cases, death.
Signals of heat stroke include:
- Hot, red, and usually dry skin, but in some cases such as during athletic activity while wearing a helmet, the skin may be moist.
- Changes in consciousness
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
If you believe someone in your group may be experiencing heat stroke, call 9-1-1 or your local EMS number. Additionally:
- Move the person to a cooler place.
- Quickly cool the body by wrapping wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels.
- Keep the person lying down until emergency responders arrive.
GENERAL WATER SAFETY TIPS
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. The American Red Cross has swimming courses for people of any age and swimming ability.
- Children or inexperienced swimmers should take precautions, such as wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (PFD) when around the water.
- Never leave a child unobserved around any water environment.
- Set water safety rules for the whole family based on swimming abilities (for example, inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep).
- Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards, such as deep and shallow areas, currents, depth changes, obstructions and where the entry and exit points are located. The more informed you are, the more aware you will be of hazards and safe practices.
- Don’t try to swim against a current if caught in one. Swim gradually out of the current, by swimming across it.
- Watch out for the dangerous “too’s” – too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
- Wear sunscreen and reapply frequently! Also wear eye protection. Sunglasses are like sunscreen for your eyes and protect against damage that can occur from UV rays.
- Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
- Use a feet-first entry when entering the water. Enter headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.
- Drink plenty of water regularly and often even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool.
- Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
If you have a pool, it should be enclosed completely with a self-locking, self-closing fence with vertical bars. Openings in the fence should be no more than four inches wide. The house should not be included as a part of the barrier. The gate should be constructed so that it is self-latching and self-closing.
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. This includes anyone participating in any boating activity. The American Red Cross has swimming courses for people of any age and swimming ability.
- Alcohol and boating don't mix. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination -- over 50 percent of drownings result from boating incidents involving alcohol. For the same reasons it is dangerous to operate an automobile while under the influence of alcohol, people should not operate a boat while drinking alcohol.
- Use Coast Guard-approved life jackets for yourself and your passengers when boating and fishing.
- Anytime you go out in a boat, give a responsible person details about where you will be and how long you will be gone. This is important because if the boat is delayed because of an emergency, becomes lost, or encounters other problems, you want help to be able to reach you.
- Find a boating course in your area (U.S. Power Squadron, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, US Sailing, etc) -- these courses teach navigation rules, emergency procedures and the effects of wind, water conditions, and weather.
- Watch the weather: Know local weather conditions and prepare for electrical storms. Watch local news programs. Stop boating as soon as you see or hear a storm.
- Know your local laws and regulations. Some states have special laws governing the use of personal water craft (PWC) which address operations, registration and licensing requirements, education, required safety equipment and minimum ages.
- Operate your PWC with courtesy and common sense. Follow the traffic pattern of the waterway. Obey no-wake and speed zones.
- Use extreme caution around swimmers and surfers. Run your PWC at a slow speed until the craft is away from shore, swimming areas, and docks. Avoid passing close to other boats and jumping wakes. This behavior is dangerous and often illegal.
- Ride with a buddy. PWCs should always travel in groups of two or three. You never know when an emergency might occur.
- Wear a wet suit in cold water to prevent hypothermia.
- You need good physical strength and swimming ability.
- Take windsurfing lessons from a qualified instructor.
- Know local weather conditions. Make sure the water and weather conditions are safe. Because water conducts electricity, it is wise to stop swimming, boating or any activities on the water as soon as you see or hear a storm.
TUBING & RAFTING SAFETY
- Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Do not overload the raft.
- Do not go rafting after a heavy rain.
- When rafting with a tour company, make sure the guides are qualified. Check with the local chamber of commerce for listings of accredited tour guides and companies.
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. This includes anyone participating in any water sport. The American Red Cross has swimming courses for people of any age and swimming ability.
- Know local weather conditions. Make sure the water and weather conditions are safe. Because water conducts electricity, it is wise to stop swimming, boating, or any activities on the water as soon as you see or hear a storm.
- Be sure the boat and ski equipment are in good shape.
- Always turn the boat motor completely off when you approach a fallen skier.
- Watch the water ahead of you at all times.
- Have an extra person aboard to watch and assist the skier.
- Run parallel to shore and come in slowly when landing. Sit down if coming in too fast.
- Use proper hand signals to signal boat operator.
- Do not ski at night or in restricted areas.