Summer fun calls for water safety

I read an article today in The Chicago Tribune that focused on suburban Chicago police efforts to crack down on irresponsible driving this summer. The story included a section about departments’ efforts to enforce laws on lakes, including those laws which prohibit operating boats and other watercraft under the influence of alcohol. This stimulated my thinking about water safety in general.

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers tips to ensure you and your family avoid tragic accidents in and around the water on our Web site. I think it’s important to mention that avoiding alcohol use is definitely crucial to having a safe time on the water. But while the police are working to prevent irresponsible driving and boating, we think there are other precautions swimmers and boaters should take to be as safe as they can. Water safety is especially important for parents to know – I learned from our Web site that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children between the ages of 1 and 4. It’s also the second leading cause of accidental death among children between the ages of 1 and 14.

Everyone should enroll in an American Red Cross certified water safety course or Learn-to-Swim class. One of the best things one can do to stay safe in and around the water is learn to swim. My parents made me take swimming lessons as a young child. They tell me this is not only because they thought I would enjoy swimming, but also as a safety measure for the future. I’m now a very confident swimmer – confident enough to become scuba certified last December (that’s a different story, but let me know if you need a scuba buddy. I’m still looking for one).

Other water safety tips include swimming in supervised areas, obeying “no diving” signs and maintaining constant supervision over children when they’re swimming. I have always loved getting out on the boat and enjoying time with friends and family on the lake. Being unprepared and experiencing an accident could ruin that attitude completely. Be safe this summer and take some of our classes. When you’re out on the water this weekend, exercise some caution and bring along your safety bag with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and plenty of drinking water. Wear a personal floatation device (PFD) and ensure there is always basic lifesaving equipment at pools or on boats. Here’s the link again if you want to check out other water safety tips on our Web site.

Of course, it’s always important to be prepared in a worst-case scenario: Learn Red Cross first aid and CPR. While knowing how to minimize the likelihood of emergencies is important, it is equally important to know what to do if a situation arises.

That being said, have a great time on the water – be safe and be prepared!

Gentry Lassiter is an intern in the Marketing & Communications department of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

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