As you may know, the American Red Cross teaches many courses involving life-saving skills, from First Aid/CPR/AED to aquatics classes such as swimming classes and lifeguard training. These classes offer participants the skills needed to help themselves or others. Unfortunately, it can take a tragedy for people to realize the importance of these life-saving skills. One drowning is too many, and this summer there have been several around the St. Louis area. No body of water is risk-free; a person can drown in just a few inches of water.
Here is a critical reminder of ways you and your loved ones can stay safe around water.
When a lifeguard is on duty, make sure the lifeguard is in a “ready position”. He/she should have a rescue tube across the thighs, strap across the shoulder and neck and be holding the excess line to keep it from getting caught in the chair or other equipment. He/she should be sitting up straight, with sunglasses on, scanning the zone. You should see his/her head moving, looking at assigned patrons in the water, from the top, bottom of water and all around. He/she should also have a hip pack with resuscitation masks and first aid supplies.
Use a throwing assist to rescue someone beyond your reach. Throw a buoyant object to the victim. Any floating object at hand, such as a plastic jug tied to a line, small cooler, buoyant cushion, kickboard, extra lifejacket or a water toy, is a great item to use.
Many of these items can usually be found in plain view at swimming pools and public waterfronts. Other items you could use include a pole, paddle or oar, tree branch, shirt, belt, towel or rope.
Never enter the water to help a victim unless you are trained to do so. When performing reaching assists, keep your body low and lean back to avoid being pulled into the water. Swimming into deep water to bring a victim to shore or to the side of the pool requires special training, a high degree of skill, fitness and rescue equipment. Do not swim out to a victim unless you have the proper training, skills, fitness and equipment. You can put yourself in danger and risk two lives rather than saving one.
More General Water Safety Tips:
- Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone. Always supervise children and inexperienced swimmers.
- Children or inexperienced swimmers should take extra precautions, such as wearing a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket when around the water.
- Follow rules and regulations, as well as instructions from lifeguards.
- Watch out for the “dangerous too’s” – too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
- Be knowledgeable of the water environment that you are in and its potential hazards, such as deep and shallow areas, currents, depth changes, obstructions and where the entry and exit points are located. The more informed you are, the more aware you will be of hazards and safe practices. Also be aware of weather conditions.
- Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving, or boating. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills and reduces your body’s ability to stay warm.
- Know how to prevent, recognize and respond to emergencies.
- Be sure everyone in the household knows how to swim. Enroll children in a Red Cross swim course. We offer Parent and Child Aquatics (6 months to 3 years); Preschool Aquatics (4 – 5 years) Learn-to-Swim (6 years – adult)
- Never leave a child unattended who may gain access to any water. Even a small amount of water can be dangerous to young children.
- Secure your pool or hot tub with a fence that is 4 feet high and has a self-closing gate
- Consider placing a safety cover over the pool or installing alarms on doors or in the pool to detect unauthorized access. Underwater alarms work best.
- Know what to do in an emergency. If a child is missing, check the water first. Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
- Outfit your pool/hot tub with the right safety equipment, including a phone, first aid kit, whistle, life jackets in various sizes, reaching device, throwing device.
- Consider enrolling in the new “Home Pool Essentials” online course. Jointly developed by the American Red Cross and the National Swimming Pool Foundation®, the course teaches pool owners basic information for maintaining and safely using home pools and hot tubs. Enroll and learn the fundamentals to help you maintain your home pool and create a safer pool environment.
- Home Pool Essentials (homepoolessentials.org)
For full information on how to be prepared and to help stay safe this summer, visit redcross.org. or call 1-800-RED CROSS to be connected to your local Red Cross.