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.

Summer is Officially Over..But I Remain Hopeful

Fall is my favorite season of the year. Why? Firstly, because in my opinion, it is the best fashion season (Gotta love the scarves and boots!) but most importantly because it reminds me of my grandmother and all that she stood for.

She loved gardening and manicured her lawn almost daily. As a kid, I loved when fall rolled around and the leaves began to change colors and ultimately fall from the trees. She, however, was not a happy camper. I remember playing for literally hours after school in the piles of leaves that she had raked and put into neat piles for disposal. Although I knew she despised it, she never said a word because she knew it made me happy. It was that kind of selflessness that made her so special to me and everyone she knew.

She truly believed in the sense of community and the concept of “we.” We was not just me and you, we was whoever needed or could offer help if any one of us needed it. She always put her needs last after family, friends, coworkers, and fellow community members. She lived and breathed giving back and supporting her community by doing whatever was necessary. She was and will always be my motivation and inspiration for believing that the world is full of hope and can change for the better.

I am surrounded by volunteers, coworkers and even clients who embody that same spirit of hope and change. Now more than ever, we are challenged to maintain hope in the face of extreme economic adversity. While some days are better than others, even the not-so-good days are bearable when I think about my grandmother’s strength, compassion and belief in change. I support the American Red Cross in her honor and because I have seen firsthand the impact that organizations like this one can make.

Who inspires you to make a difference or create hope? Share their story by making a gift in their honor or memory. Holiday season is just around the corner. Consider giving a tribute gift and change lives in your community. Visit

Shemiah W.

Summer Holiday Safety Tips

Summer is and full swing and The Fourth of July is right around the corner. It’s a time for us to kick back, and enjoy some time with our friends and family around the grill. While the holiday is a great time to relax, safety should still be the first priority.

The Red Cross has a few tips to make sure your Independence day is as fun, and more importantly as safe as it can be.

Safe Grilling:Nothing says summer quite like the smell of barbecue. Make sure safety is a key ingredient in your Fourth of July by reading the following tips for safer grilling:

Use gas and charcoal barbecue grills outside only.
Position grills far from siding, deck railings, overhanging branches and house eaves.
Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using grills.
Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use

Water Safety at the Pool and Beach:The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. The Red Cross has swimming courses for people of any age and swimming ability. To find out where lessons are offered or to enroll in a CPR/AED or first aid course, contact your local Red Cross chapter.

Swim in a supervised, marked area with a lifeguard present, and swim with others. Never swim alone.
Enter the water feet first. Enter the water headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.
Adults should never leave a child unobserved around water. Practice “reach supervision” by staying within an arm’s length of young children and weak swimmers while they are in and around the pool, lake or ocean.
Take frequent breaks (about once an hour) where everyone gets out of the water, drinks water, reapplies sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) and rests.
If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
Watch out for the “dangerous too’s” – too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
Post CPR instructions and directions to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number in the pool area.
Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children into the pool.
If a child is missing, check the pool first. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom, and surface, as well as the surrounding pool area.