Department of Health & Human Services

Posted on: June 11, 2015

Keep water recreation fun and safe

Whether rivers, lakes, the beach or pools, water recreation is a favorite summer pastime for many. The Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Public Health officials are reminding everyone it is important to put safety first while enjoying activities in and around water.

“There are easy steps that can be taken to prevent drowning,” said DHHS Public Health Deputy Director Lara Weiss. “Make sure everyone in your family learns how to swim. Don’t swim alone—use the buddy system. It is also important to teach children to ask permission before going near water and to keep a constant eye on young children playing in or near the water.”

Learning CPR is also important, as the more quickly it is performed on a drowning victim, the better chance of an improved outcome, she said.

Weiss said there are a number of other safety tips for water recreation:

• Adults should closely supervise children at all times and be alcohol- and drug-free while supervising kids. Statistics show alcohol and water can be a dangerous mix. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of water recreation deaths among adults and adolescents.
• It is always advisable to wear a life vest or personal flotation device during water activities. This is especially important for children and those who do not swim well.
• Blow-up water toys and water wings are not approved swimming aids.
• Learn to recognize the signs of a swimmer in distress.
• Beware of hazards below the surface of the water, such as tree branches, rocks and sunken objects.
• Children in swimming pools always require adult supervision.
• Toys should be removed from pools and hot tubs as soon as water recreation is over.

The ocean beaches are beautiful this time of year—and they also present potential threats, especially to people who are not familiar with the dangers of the ocean, said Troy Nicolini of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.“A number of recent drowning victims have been visitors to the area who are unaware of our local hazards. If you observe someone engaging in potentially risky behavior around water, share some friendly safety advice.”

“We see too many tragedies around people going in after a person who is struggling in a current,” said Denise George, a health education specialist with DHHS and member of the local Water Safety Coalition. “Unless you are trained in water rescue, the best way to help is to extend an oar, pole or branch, or throw a rope or an object that will float; if these things are not available, call 911. This leaves you available to direct emergency help to the victim and prevents the need to rescue two victims.”

George said it is also important not to go in after your dog, even if it seems to be in distress.

“Dogs are strong swimmers and can better tolerate the cold water,” she said. “They almost always make it out on their own.”

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