Water Safety Smarts

It's time to hit the water.  Whether your favorite water sport is swimming, waterskiing, boating, or simply wading in the lake, certain safety precautions will keep your fun from heading down stream.

1. Learn to swim. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4000 Americans die annually from drowning. Men and children are more likely than women to drown. 

Most cities offer affordable swim lessons through their Parks and Recreation Departments, community and aquatic centers.  Experienced swimmers can safely teach others if they're cautious.  Never toss a beginner in the deep end to teach them to sink or swim.  Too many sink. 

The American Red Cross offers these safety tips for all swimmers:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Choose supervised swim areas. A trained lifeguard is the best safety factor. Even good swimmers can have an unexpected medical emergencies
  • Never drink alcohol and swim.
  • Never chew gum or eat while you swim - you could easily choke.
  • Know your limit. Don't try to keep up with stronger swimmers.
  • Use common sense about swimming after eating. Let digestion get started before doing any strenuous activity.
  • Don't swim if you're too tired, too cold, too far from safety, if there's too much sun or you've already had too much strenuous activity.
  • Stay out of the water when overheated.
  • Stop swimming or boating as soon as you see lightning or hear thunder.

2. Be a safe boater. In 2006, the U.S. Coast Guard received reports for 4,967 boating incidents; 3,474 boaters were reported injured, and 710 died. 70% of deaths were caused by drowning and 90% weren't wearing life jackets. The remainder died from trauma, hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other causes. Open motorboats were involved in 45% of all reported incidents, and personal watercraft were involved in another 24%. Alcohol is involved in half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation and about 20% of reported boating fatalities.

  • Have a Coast Guard certified life jacket for every person on the boat.
  • Don't drink alcohol.
  • Boat operators must be experienced and capable of handling all emergencies.
  • File a boat plan and/or make sure people know when and where you'll be boating.

3. Be careful waterskiing. The American Red Cross has these additional tips for water skiers:

  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Be sure the boat and ski equipment are in good shape.
  • Turn the boat motor off when you approach a fallen skier.
  • Watch the water ahead of you at all times.
  • Have an extra person aboard to assist the skier.
  • Run parallel to shore and come in slowly when landing. Sit down if coming in too fast.
  • Use proper hand signals.
  • Don't ski at night or in restricted areas.