An average of 3,868 people drowned per year from 1999-2000, and for most, those accidents were most likely to occur in natural bodies of water, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
“While many parents worry about their children’s safety around swimming pools, as they should and need to do, drowning incidents can also occur in natural bodies of water,” said Sue Mackie, executive director of the United States Swim School Association. “Safety precautions need to be taken around all water environments.”
On its website, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention points to 2007 statistics that show that more than twice as many drowning incidents occur in natural bodies of water than swimming pools. The difference increases to 2.5 percent when boating related drowning incidents are included.
There are simple steps you can take to improve your chances of staying safe the next time you’re playing in and around water. Here are some recommendations from the CDC and the U.S. Swim School Association:
Learn to swim: Putting your kids in a good swim program can help them save themselves if they fall in the water. Many swimming facilities also offer lessons for adults.
Supervision: The CDC recommends designating an adult who knows how to swim and perform CPR to watch swimmers. “The supervisor should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, or talking on the phone) while watching children,” according to the drowning prevention section of CDC.gov. Also swim with a buddy and try to choose areas that are patrolled by lifeguards.
Know CPR: The ability to perform CPR could save a life or make a difference while waiting for the lifeguard or paramedics to arrive.
Use a PFD: A Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device can be a lifesaver but Mackie said, “Never substitute water wings or other recreational type floating toys for an approved PFD.”
Know the conditions: Be aware of underwater obstacles and drop-offs and check the weather forecast before heading out.
Rip currents: Different color and choppy or foamy areas of water or an area of water filled with debris moving away from shore are signs of a rip current. These currents should be avoided. If caught in a rip current the CDC recommends swimming parallel to shore until free then head toward shore.
Swim sober: It might seen like common sense, but swimming under the influence is a good way to get in trouble.
Have a plan: In a safety guide written by Mackie, she suggests teaching kids what do in dangerous situations.
She said families should have a water safety plan and children should know how to recognize when a person is in danger and what to do.
Mackie said children should be taught to “throw, don’t go.” Instead of jumping in after somebody in trouble, throw them a rope, paddle or other item so you can pull them to safety.
Children should also be taught that if they fall in the water and can’t get out on their own, they should try to float on their backs until help arrives, Mackie said.