shark week safety

Here we are in the middle of Shark Week and I think this is an excellent opportunity to brush up on water safety. While we don’t have to worry too much about a shark attack in Lake Michigan, there was a time when a shark attack was a realistic threat in the Illinois stretch of the Mississippi river. In 1937, a freshwater-loving bull shark was caught by commercial fisherman in Alton, Illinois. Since then, dams have prevented bull sharks from entering Illinois.

What if the unthinkable happens and the dams break or bull sharks decide to take up residency in Lake Michigan? Or, on a more realistic note, what if you are planning a summer trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where Great White sharks have recently been spotted? If faced with a shark, would you know what to do?

Here is a (fictional) scenario one girl found herself in – unknowingly provoking a shark attack:

– Emily’s boyfriend just gave her a shiny new engagement ring and she swore she’d never remove it from her finger. While celebrating her new engagement with a day in the sun, sand and surf (using the proper sun block of course), she decides to take a dip in the ocean to cool off. On her way to the water, she cuts her toe on broken glass. Instead of using the First Aid knowledge she learned in her Red Cross class to tend to her wound, she decides that she will go rinse off her foot in the water. As she wades in the water, she sees fishermen off in the distance. Jumping up and down to wave hello, she creates splashing in the water, sends the blood from her toe through the water current and flails her shiny new ring around – causing it to reflect throughout the water. Next thing you know…Wham! Shark attack!

A few Red Cross tips could have kept Emily from becoming shark bait:

-Swimmers should not wear shiny jewelry and avoid bright colors which sharks may confuse with fish scales and colorings.

-Do not swim in open fishing grounds and exit the water immediately if something happens that causes you to bleed as sharks can be attracted to the smell of blood from a distance.

-Always swim in groups, do not swim too far from the shore and avoid the water during the times of day when sharks are most active – at dawn, dusk and during the night.

-In general, everyone should learn first aid and CPR/AED skills to know how to respond to an emergency.

-This is a scary incident for the victim and community, and although shark attacks rank low in terms of water-related risk, it is still important that people take precautions when participating in recreation on or around the ocean.

While a shark attack is a very uncommon event, it is a good thing to be prepared. Chicagoland residents are lucky to not have to worry so much about sharks. However, we do need to know how to stay safe from everyday threats in rivers, lakes, streams and swimming pools. Any body of water can present dangerous conditions and everybody should be prepared on how to stay safe in them.

Written by Sarah Jean Rovenko

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