Water Safety: Lakes, Rivers and Ocean Tips
Whatever the activity, observe the three cardinal rules of water activity:
- Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Know local weather conditions. Make sure the water and weather conditions are safe. Because water conducts electricity, it is wise to stop swimming, boating or any activities on the water as soon as you see or hear a storm. Also, heavy rains can make certain areas dangerous.
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim, period.
Where to swim and play
Only swim and play in areas that …
- Are supervised. A Red Cross-trained lifeguard who can help in an emergency is the best safety factor. Even good swimmers can have an unexpected medical emergency in the water. Never swim alone.
- Are clean and well-maintained. A clean bathhouse, clean restrooms, and a litter-free environment show the management’s concern for your health and safety.
- Have good water quality and safe, natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs and aquatic plant life are hazards. Water pollution can cause health problems for swimmers. Strong tides, big waves, and currents can turn an event that began as fun into a tragedy.
- Have well-maintained rafts and docks. A well-run open-water facility maintains its rafts and docks in good condition, with no loose boards or exposed nails.
- Areas underneath a raft or dock. Always look before jumping off a dock or raft to be sure no one is in the way.
- Areas above and below a dam.
- Drainage ditches and arroyos. Drainage ditches and arroyos for water run-off are not good places for swimming or playing in the water. After heavy rains, they can quickly change into raging rivers that can easily take a human life. Even the strongest swimmers are no match for the power of the water. Fast water and debris in the current make ditches and arroyos very dangerous.
- Piers, pilings and diving platforms when in the water.
Think before you wade or jump
Make sure the water is deep enough before entering headfirst. Many swimmers are seriously injured every year by entering headfirst into water that is too shallow. A feet-first entry is much safer than diving.
Water that appears calm on the surface may have a current below the surface. Do not underestimate the power of an unseen current If you are caught in a current and being swept away, roll over onto your back and go downstream feet first to avoid hitting your head. When you are out of the strongest part of the current, swim straight towards shore.
Don’t try to swim against a current if caught in one. Swim gradually out of the current, by swimming across it.
A hydraulic is a strong force created by water flowing downward over an object, then reversing its flow. The reverse flow of the water can trap and hold a person under. If you are caught in a hydraulic, do not fight it but swim to the bottom and then swim out with the current to reach the surface.
Watch out for the dangerous “too’s” – too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.