Swimming and playing in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, bays, streams, rivers, and lakes are popular summer activities on the Gulf Coast. Indeed, swimming has great health benefits. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In Florida it is the number one cause of death for persons under 15 years of age. These 5 tips should help your family stay safe. However, they are not comprehensive. Use common sense when out and about this summer and keep your family safe on the water.
- Know how to swim – the best thing you can do to keep your family safe on the water is to make sure everyone knows how to swim. The YMCA, Red Cross, and other organizations provide swim lessons for people of all ages. No one is too old or to young to learn how to swim.
- Swim with a buddy – do not swim alone! Always swim with a friend or family member. People who swim alone are more likely to drown. A buddy can help or get help if a swimmer gets into trouble in the water.
- Swim near a lifeguard – most beaches or swimming areas have places designated for lifeguard supervision. The chance of drowning decreases significantly when people have lifeguards nearby. The extra protection of having a trained lifeguard nearby is invaluable.
- Know the rules – most beaches have systems and rules to let swimmers know when it is safe to swim. Many beaches use a system of color coded warning flags to tell swimmers about water conditions and hazards. Learn the types of signals for wherever you are swimming. Most places have signs posted saying what the meanings of the flags are. If you are unsure, ask a lifeguard. Of course, if you see a sign saying “Don’t Swim”, don’t.
- Feet first – do not dive head first. Many spinal cord injuries happen when people dive headfirst into water and strike the bottom. Always check for depth and obstructions before diving and go in the water feet first the first time.