Water Safety Isn't Seasonal
After a long winter, nothing sounds more refreshing than taking a swim in a nearby
lake, river or pool.
However, a fun trip to the water could turn sour or disastrous in a matter of seconds.
According to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, drowning takes an average of
3,000 to 4,000 lives every year. That averages to around 10 drowning deaths every
day in the United States, not including boating incidents. While drowning is the
leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children from ages 1-4,
drowning does not discriminate. Even great swimmers are susceptible to water
accidents, especially in uncontrolled environments like rivers and lakes.
May is National Water Safety Month, just in time for the warmer weather and summer
vacation. With increased traffic on the water, it's vital to take the necessary
precautions to prevent boating and swimming accidents. Fortunately, you can take
a variety of steps to help protect you, your family, and friends while on the water.
BEFORE GETTING IN THE WATER
A Coast Guard-approved life jacket is the best precaution that you can take to prevent
drowning. In Texas, boaters are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket
for every person on their boat, including infants. Children under the age of 13 are
required to wear a lifejacket while on a moving watercraft.
And, don't forget your furry friends! Life jackets are not required for pets, but if you're
taking your pets out on the water, it doesn't hurt to provide a little extra protection with
a life jacket of their own. You can learn more about Texas' life jacket regulations
To make sure that your life jacket fits, put on the life jacket and fasten the straps. Then,
hold your arms straight up over your head and ask a friend to grasp the top of the arm
openings and gently pull up. The life jacket shouldn't be able to slip past your ears
and should fit snugly.
If you own a pool or spa, be sure to fence the area around them with adequate barriers.
According to the National Safety Council, emergency departments treat around 6,400 pool
and spa injuries for children 15 and younger every year. Placing barriers around these
areas will help keep children out and allow them to swim only when there is an adult
present. Constant supervision and barriers are vital, even when children have completed
While we want everyone to have fun and enjoy Texas water, please do so responsibly.
Just like driving a vehicle, someone operating a boat is considered legally intoxicated
if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or greater. Have a designated driver operate the
boat or leave the drinks back at the dock. You can always enjoy them when you are safely
back on land. And, remember, young children cannot be your designated driver on the
water or land.
Finally, if you are not confident in your swimming abilities, don't take the risk.
Avoid going into the water until you know how to swim. Fortunately, there are swim
lessons available for all ages.
IN THE WATER
Whether you are in the pool or at a BRA reservoir, there are plenty of safety tips that you
can follow while you are in the water. However, swimming in an open body of water has different
obstacles and considerations. Make sure the body of water matches your skill level—swimming
in a pool is different than swimming in a lake or river, where more strength is needed to handle currents.
If you do swim in an open body of water, it's important to be aware of a rare but usually
fatal illness caused by a waterborne amoeba called Naegleria fowleri that resides
in all lakes, streams, rivers and ponds in Texas. Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, or
PAM, is a disease caused by the naegleria fowleri. The amoeba thrives in
freshwater that is warmer than 80 degrees and is stagnant or slow-moving. The infection
only occurs when the amoeba is present in surface water, and that water is forced up a
person's nose during activities such as jumping, diving, or swimming. The disease can't
be spread from person to person, and people can't become infected by swallowing the water.
One way to greatly reduce infection risk is to avoid submerging your head when swimming
in freshwater. By using nose clips, holding your nose or simply not going underwater
dramatically decreases the chance of infection. Since the amoeba is also found in dirt,
you should also avoid digging or stirring up sediment in the water. Another factor to
consider before selecting a swimming spot is dead fish. If dead fish are floating in
an area, stay on the safe side and relocate to another spot.
To learn more about waterborne illnesses, go here.
Designated Swim Areas
Before you take your first dip into the cool water, make sure you are in a designated
swimming area. Swimming in open water puts you in the path of ski boats and jet skis
that are not looking for bobbing heads in the water, especially during busy holiday
weekends. Besides boat traffic, be careful leaping into the open water as large
objects, rocks and tree stumps may not be seen from above the water. If you do get
caught in a current, stay calm and float with it. Don't fight the current but try
to swim parallel to the shoreline until you can get out.
Adult Water Watchers
Swimming with a friend is always more fun, plus it helps you stay safe. Swimming
alone will make it difficult to contact authorities in case of an emergency. If
children are in the water, a designated "water watcher" that can pay attention to
swimmers is important for both pools and open bodies of water. Drowning can be
silent, quick, and can even happen in very shallow water, so it's vital that an
adult watch the water with their full attention. CPR performed by bystanders can
save lives and increase survival chances. Take time to learn CPR in case of emergencies.
Watch the Weather
As Texans know, the state's weather can change in an instant. Sunny days on the
water can turn into dangerous weather before you are able to return to shore.
Be aware of local weather conditions and forecasts before going out on the water.
Thunderstorms with lightning and strong winds create dangerous swimming and
Water safety doesn't only apply to swimmers—paddlers and boaters can help protect
passengers on their boat and swimmers in the water by always watching their
surroundings. Always pay attention to your surroundings and keep a safe distance
from others. This means no beaching or rafting your boat next to someone else and
keeping your distance at the fuel stations.
And, bring some to drink…
Hydration is key while enjoying the hot Texas sun, so pack plenty of water for
everyone in your group. Be sure to apply liberal amounts of sunscreen to prevent
sunburns. Apply sunscreen before going outside and reapply after swimming or
sweating. Pack plenty of water if you plan on being outdoors and avoid drinks
with high sugar levels and alcohol. If you plan on being outdoors for an
extended period of time, have a designated air-conditioned or shaded area
where you can cool off.
Just taking a few extra minutes to implement water safety tips will help keep
you and your family safe during Nation Water Safety Month and beyond.
If an accident does happen on the water, make a report immediately by dialing 911.
Enjoy your time on Texas water, stay aware and remember to wear a life jacket!