We looked to experts and organizations to highlight some of the most important water safety tips. It doesn’t end here, you should certainly look for more information and resources, but these are 10 water safety tips you shouldn’t ignore.
Learning to swim and teaching kids to swim early on is one of the best ways to ensure water safety. Introducing water and swimming early on (through age-appropriate swim classes), will help children become comfortable in the water and can help in the event of an accident. Swim lessons or skills are not a substitute for supervision, though.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old and it’s the third leading cause of injury-related death among children 19 and under.” Even adults with the best intentions can occasionally be distracted, the key is to give children 100 percent of your attention when they’re around water, don’t leave supervision to a lifeguard and if you need to walk away, take the child (or children) with you.
“Dress properly for the weather, always wearing layers and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet,” Johnson said. “Remember, dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.” It may be hot outside, but the water takes longer to warm up. Even in the summer water temperatures can be dangerously low, it’s important to be prepared.
Many incidents occur when people fall into water unexpectedly, but the key is to remain calm. “Catch your breath,” Johnson said. “A sudden unexpected fall into cold water causes an involuntary gasp (or torso) reflex. It takes less than half a cup of water in your lungs to drown. If you remain calm, you have a greater chance of self-rescue.”
Prevalent along U.S. coastline, rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that can drag even the most skilled swimmer out to sea. Though lifeguards save tens of thousands from these currents, they reportedly kill an estimated 100 people annually, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Keep an eye out for posted signs and a channel of churning, choppy water and, if you are being pulled out do not try to swim against the current. For more information, take a look at our guide on how to survive a rip current.
It’s crucial to know what to do in the worst case scenario. What happens in the few minutes after a drowning victim is pulled from the water and before help arrives can be a life or death matter. Seek out proper training and certification—the American Red Cross offers classes—and be prepared.
If you’re planning on boating, sailing, kayaking or anything that will put you out on the water this summer, share your plan with family and friends. Write down details like where you’ll be, who you’ll be with, a description of your boat and approximate times of departure and planned arrival, you can find a free template here. Should something happen, they’ll have the information the Coast Guard would need to find you.
Whether swimming, boating or simply being near water, avoid drinking alcohol. It impairs judgement, coordination and the body’s ability to keep warm and even excellent swimmers are at risk. It’s best to avoid alcoholic drinks altogether.