Swimming safety tips ahead of summer pool season

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the unofficial start to summer quickly approaching, health and safety officials want to make sure people stay safe in and out of the water.

May 24-May 30 is healthy and safe swimming week. This week highlights the roles that swimmers, parents, aquatics and beach staff, residential pool owners, and public health officials play in preventing disease outbreaks, drowning, and pool chemical injuries. 

On Saturday, Plainfield Parks and Recreation hosted a mock operation for medical emergency scenarios at Splash Island Outdoor Waterpark. This included aquatic emergency scenarios, discussions on observation skills, the importance of roles and diversity.

CDC data shows that between 2009 and 2019 39,702 people died in the United States. This averages to almost 10 deaths per day. Of these deaths, 7,529 were children aged 14 and younger.

In Indiana, 755 people have died from unintentional drowning from 2009 to 2019, 178 of whom were children 14 and younger.

The CDC data also shows that more than three-quarters of all unintentional drowning death victims are male. From 2009 to 2019, 30,470 males died from unintentional drowning compared to 9,232. Across all age ranges, males were more than twice the number of unintentional drowning victims.

The CDC says the main factors that affect drowning risk are lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, lack of close supervision while swimming, location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders.

The Red Cross says people should know how to perform 5 skills in every type of water environment that they may encounter. These include:

  1. Enter water that’s over your head, then return to the surface.
  2. Float or tread water for at least 1 minute.
  3. Turn over and turn around in the water.
  4. Swim at least 25 yards.
  5. Exit the water.

The Red Cross says people should also pay attention to children or weak swimmers, know the signs if someone is drowning, how to safely assist them, and know CPR and first aid.

Douglas Randell, the Division Chief of EMS for the Plainfield Fire Territory said it is important for them to conduct mock operations to practice lifesaving skills to provide the best possible outcome.

 “The relationship we have with Splash Island is critical because they see hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis through the Spring and Summer months,” Randell said. “It makes us feel good as providers knowing there are people that are here doing the right thing for those patients as well, and we wish more facilities would have mock operations.”

The CDC says seconds count when it comes to helping drowning victims. CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to save lives and improve outcomes. Randell said it is also important to be aware and alert people if someone is drowning.

“If you see something, say something,” Randell said. “And that’s an important thing. Just making sure that you are taking care of the person next to you because we are really in this together. And because there are so many people here at one time that could get lost and seconds matter.”

The CDC provided the following tips to help people stay safe in the water.

  • Supervise When in or Around Water. Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool children should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.
  • Use the Buddy System. Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.
  • Seizure Disorder Safety. If you or a family member has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water, including swimming pools. Consider taking showers rather than using a bathtub for bathing. Wear life jackets when boating.
  • Learn to Swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent unsupervised access, are still important.
  • Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.
  • Air-Filled or Foam Toys are not safety devices. Don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings”, “noodles”, or inner tubes, instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Avoid Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
  • Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out (sometimes called “hypoxic blackout” or “shallow water blackout”) and drown.
  • Know how to prevent recreational water illnesses. For more information about illnesses from recreational water, visit the CDC’s website.
  • Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.

If you have a swimming pool at home:

  • Install Four-Sided Fencing. Install a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the pool area from the house and yard. The fence should be at least 4 feet high. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children. Also, consider additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access or alert you if someone enters the pool area.
  • Clear the Pool and Deck of Toys. Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.

If you are in and around natural water settings:

  • Use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. This is important regardless of the distance to be traveled, the size of the boat, or the swimming ability of boaters; life jackets can reduce risk for weaker swimmers too.
  • Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags. These may vary from one beach to another.
  • Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents. Some examples are water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore.
  • If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim diagonally toward shore.

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