As the number of water-related deaths continues to climb in New Jersey, the alarming trend has local authorities and health officials repeating their warnings about the dangers of swimming, whether it is in the ocean, river, lake or pool.
These deaths due to drowning clearly underscore the need to heed the advice of the experts when it comes to water safety.
The American Red Cross offers these safety tips whenever you are in, on or around water.
- Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
- Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone. Even at a public pool or a lifeguarded beach, use the buddy system.
- Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well. Enroll in age-appropriate Red Cross water orientation and Learn-to-Swim courses.
- Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water. This is particular important in New Jersey, which does not require motels and hotels to post lifeguards at pools.
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
- Establish rules for your family and enforce them without fail. For example, set limits based on each person’s ability, do not let anyone play around drains and suction fittings, and do not allow swimmers to hyperventilate before swimming under water or have breath-holding contests.
- Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water, including the ocean shoreline, rivers and lakes. Currents and underwater hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.
- If you go boating, wear a life jacket. Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.
- Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination, affects swimming and diving skills, and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.
How to Avoid Getting Caught in a Rip Current
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stresses that it's vital to know —before entering the ocean — what rip currents are, and how to escape them. Rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches. Typically, they form at breaks in sandbars, and also near structures, such as jetties and piers, as well as cliffs that jut into the water. Rip currents are common and can be found on most surf beaches, including those along the Jersey shoreline.
Before you enter the surf:
- Check water conditions by looking at the local beach forecast and talking to the lifeguards at the beach.
- Only swim at a beach with lifeguards. The chances of drowning at a beach with lifeguards are 1 in 18 million, according to the U.S. Lifesaving Association.
- Don't assume. Great weather for the beach does not always mean it's safe to swim or even play in the shallows. Rip currents often form on calm, sunny days.
If you should get caught in a rip current:
- Don't fight the current. It's a natural treadmill that travels an average speed of 1 to 2 feet per second, but has been measured as fast as 8 feet per second — faster than an Olympic swimmer.
- Relax and float to conserve energy. Staying calm may save your life.
- Do not try to swim directly toward the shore. Swim along the shoreline until you escape the current's pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
- If you feel you can't reach shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help.
- Remember: If in doubt, don't go out.
Keeping Your Home Pool Safe
Pools that are properly safeguarded can help prevent both adults and children from accidentally falling in. Here are a few recommendations for securing a home pool:
- Surround the pool with a fence that is at least 4 feet tall
- Be sure the fence has a self-closing and self-latching gate with a lock
- In-ground pools should be completely fenced in
- Install a rigid safety cover for your inground pool
- Maintain supervision of kids whenever around the water, even if lifeguards are present.
- Remember to also have the appropriate rescue equipment, life jackets and a first aid kit available in case of an emergency.
For a complete list of water safety tips visit the American Red Cross water safety site at http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety.
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