The Water Safety Primer

The summer heat has been building, and building, and – for many parts of the United States, there’s more to come. As the hottest times of the year approach, it’s no surprise many people seek the relief of cool water. So pack the car and head to the beach, or the neighbor’s pool, or a nearby lake. But on the way, keep in mind the importance of water safety for your family, no matter where you head to cool down. Around 3,400 people drown in the United States each year, and it is one of the leading causes of death for children. Here is a collection of key safety information to review before cooling down, ordered by favorite summer destinations.

On the Beach

  • Only swim in designated areas that have safe surf and life guards. These areas tend to be crowded, but they are set apart for a reason.
  • Before your feet hit the sand, create a family plan for water fun. Set limits, make sure everyone swims with a buddy, and outlaw holding-your-breath contests.
  • Have your kids wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets, but never mistake floatation devices as a cure-all. Supervision will keep your children safe – children tend to drown very quietly, with minimal splashing, so you must depend on your eyes.
  • When in trouble, don’t fight the current. Rip currents tire you out while still pulling you away from shore. In you are getting pulled out to see, swim parallel to the shore until the current dies out and you can return.
  • If you or a family member loves to surf, make sure surfing boards are attached via a breakaway leash. The leash keeps the board close as a flotation device but allows the surfer to break free in case of emergencies.

At the Swimming Pool

  • Never leave children unsupervised – always keep watch.
  • If the pool is yours, make sure it is in all ways inaccessible by toddlers. If there is a way, they will find it.
  • Keep emergency equipment and first aid kits close at hand when using the pool. Learning CPR and other basic techniques can also help. Keeping a cell phone close at hand is also a good idea.
  • Start with swimming lessons at local recreational centers or schools.
  • Swimming does not replenish water inside the body. Swimming in the hot sun can lead to dehydration, so have everyone drink plenty of fluids…and take bathroom breaks.
  • Keep the deep end off limits for younger kids or those recovering from injuries.
  • Keep track of all toys and always keep them away from the pool edge where people can slip on the them.

In the Boat

  • Most of the ocean rules, such as using life jackets and forming a family plan, are equally important when boating.
  • Lakes, rivers, and bays can be surprisingly cold, even in the summer. Keep towels handy and be ready to fish your kids out and warm them up quickly in case of muscle cramps or worse, hypothermia.
  • Life jackets frequently save lives when boating. Make sure your kids wear them constantly.
  • Alcohol is always a bad companion for water sports, but this is especially true in boating, because the boat can feel like a “safe zone” where drinking is all right. This is not true, and may even be illegal in some states. Alcohol affects swimming skills, operating skills, and judgment, a combination that frequently results in fatal accidents. Save it for off the water.
  • Do not allow family members to dive into strange water. This is especially true of lakes, rivers, and shallow seas where diving looks like fun. The water may be too shallow or may harbor dangerous rocks just below the surface.
  • Pay attention to safety requirements, capacity rules, and other key parts of boat operation.

At Waterparks

  • Waterparks are a controlled environment, but your kids should still have basic swimming skills before enjoying them. Supervision is still key.
  • While waterparks are safe, some actions are still unwise. Do not eat or chew gum while playing in the water – it could lead to serious injury.
  • Only dive at depths of nine feet or more.
  • The age and height restrictions are there for a reason. Pay attention, and instruct your kids to do the same.


Additional Resources:

National Water Safety Program: Safety Tips

American Red Cross: Stay Safe This Summer

National Water Safety Month

Safe Kids: Open Water Safety Tips