Spending a week at the cottage, going fishing or sailing, or just having fun in your backyard pool can make for a great summer. But water needs to be treated with respect or accidents can happen. By paying attention to certain safety rules and by knowing what to do in case of an emergency, you will greatly reduce your risk of accidents.
Every year, we hear tragic stories of children who escape even watchful eyes and drown in a swimming pool, lake, or river. The sad part is that most of these accidents could have been prevented if certain safety precautions had been followed. These include:
- Never leave a child alone in or around water. Don't leave to answer the phone, even if it's just for a moment. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye.
- Fence the pool area with self-latching/locking gates.
- Keep safety equipment such as a life preserver and a "shepherd's hook" (long pole with a hook on one end) close by at all times.
- Have life jackets available for use, especially in children's sizes. While water wings can be helpful in aiding a swimmer to stay afloat, they do not prevent drowning if the swimmer is face down in the water.
- Encourage swimming lessons for all children, but don't rely on them for "drown-proofing."
- Don't allow running or rough-housing on the pool deck.
- Unless your pool is deep enough, don't allow diving. Water should be at least 9 feet (2.7 metres) deep to permit diving from the poolside, and at least 12 feet (3.7 metres) deep if there's a diving board.
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- If you're having a party, make one adult responsible for the kids and the water area. Accidents have happened when people thought others were watching the children.
People who like to dive find lakes and swimming very tempting, but diving can be dangerous unless the area is deep enough. A dive in water that's too shallow can result in a broken neck or other serious injuries. Don't assume that an area is safe, even if it's been so in the past. Water levels in rivers and lakes can change, so always check first. To dive safely, you need a minimum of 9 feet of clear, unobstructed water – more if you're diving from an elevated position. Jump in feet first before any diving to check it out and make sure it's okay.
If you enjoy boating, don't forget your life jackets – and wear them. A boat can flip for many reasons, but if you're prepared, you'll probably be safe. Having a life jacket under the seats won't prevent you from drowning.
Finally, don't drink alcohol and operate a boat. Drunk drivers can cause fatal accidents whether they're operating a car or a boat. Even one drink can affect your awareness and reaction time. Don't get in a boat if the person taking the wheel has been drinking.
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