Enjoy your time in the water, but put safety first

by Becki Yoder

Special to The Free Press

Memorial Day Weekend is the traditional splash off into summer. School is out. The Kansas summer quickly heats up as the thermometer rises to hot, humid and unbearable.

With the heat of the sun’s rays beating down, who doesn’t long for a refreshing, quenching dip in a cool swimming pool or lake.

According to the Center for Disease Control, swimming is the fourth most popular recreational activity for all ages, but in children ages 7-17 it ranks first among recreational activities.

Aquatic activities are fun and enjoyable, but are associated with some risk, especially drowning. Death by drowning is a public health problem in the United States. The majority of drownings can be prevented by learning basic water safety rules and learning to swim.

Here are several rules to know that can save your life.

1. Learn how to swim well enough to survive in an emergency. Enroll in a creditable swimming instruction program.

The program should have clearly defined objectives and progressive levels. Water safety concepts, swimming and survival skills should be incorporated into every lesson.

Ask the instructor what certifications they hold. Water safety instructors should be trained by a nationally recognized training agency like the Ameri­can Red Cross. A lifeguard does not have the training and expertise to teach swimming and water safety unless they hold both certifications.

2. Never swim alone. Swim with a buddy in a supervised area. If for some reason you get into trouble in, on or around the water there would be someone there to help you or get help. Swim only in designated swimming area at lakes. These areas are cordoned off for swimmers only. Boats are not allowed in the swimming area. The safest areas are supervised by a lifeguard.

3. Supervise children 100 percent of the time in, on and around the water even when a lifeguard is present. Stay within arm’s reach so you can quickly respond.

Drownings happened very suddenly. An active drowning victim is only at the surface of the water from 20-60 seconds. In today’s world, that is about the time it takes to check a text message or Facebook.

Do not rely on water wings or inflatable toys to support your child. Use only a coast guard approved PFD or lifejacket. A lifejacket is not a substitute for supervision.

4. No diving unless the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions. Diving, or a head first entry into the water should never happen in less than 5 feet of water. The water is too shallow. Most head, neck or back injuries occur in shallow water.

Lakes and ponds in Kansas are very turbid. Think twice before diving. You may think the water is deep but it may be dangerously shallow. If you cannot see the bottom the safest entry into the water is always feet first.

5. If boating, know the Kansas boating laws and take a boating education class through Kansas Wild­life, Parks & Tourism. Wear a PFD or lifejacket. Kansas law states that every person in the boat must have a coast guard-approved PFD on board. Children 12 years old and younger must wear it at all times while in the boat.

6. Take a break when you get too cold, too tired, too much sun, or too much activity.

7. Know how to get help. Get trained in CPR and first aid.

As we anxiously wait to dive into summer, I hope you take these water safety rules with you. The water is a fun place to be but it can be very dangerous if we don’t know how to be safe in it.

Becki Yoder is an American Red Cross water safety instructor, water safety instructor trainer, and a lifeguarding instructor. She has spent the last 40 years teaching and training people of all ages how to swim, be safe in, on, and around the water, and enjoy the water.

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