Department of Health & Human Services

Posted on: July 9, 2014

Play it safe around water this summer.

Summertime finds tourists and locals alike at North Coast rivers and lakes, the ocean and swimming pools. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Public Health officials remind everyone it is important to put safety first while enjoying activities in and around water.

“We can take steps to prevent drowning,” said DHHS Public Health Director Susan Buckley. “Some of the best actions to take to reduce risk are learning CPR and making sure everyone in your family learns to swim. Use the buddy system and never swim alone. Keep constant eyes on young children playing in or near any body of water and teach children to always ask permission to go near water.”

Buckley 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.
• 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.
• Learn to recognize the signs of a swimmer in distress. If a swimmer needs help, avoid going in after him or her unless you have been trained in proper water rescue.
• If you need to help someone, the best method is to “Reach, Throw, Don’t Go.” Anchor yourself and extend a pole or an oar, or throw a rope or object that will float. If these options won’t work, call for help.
• Do not go in after dogs. Rescue is dangerous and dogs usually make it out on their own.
• Beware of hazards below the surface of the water, such as trees and sunken objects.
• 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.

While ocean beaches are beautiful this time of year, they also present potential threats.

“Don’t be fooled by an ocean that looks calm,” said Troy Nicolini of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. “There can be 20 minutes of small waves right before a sneaker wave strikes.” Nicolini recommends wearing a life vest when fishing or tidepooling.

Swimming pools are also enjoyable, but always require adult attention and supervision. DHHS Health Education Specialist II Denise George recommends younger children and inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests when they are near water.

“Swimming aids such as blow-up ‘water wings’ are not approved,” said George, a member of the local Water Safety Coalition. She also recommends that parents remove all toys from the pool and hot tub as soon as water recreation is over.

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