Summer 2016 | cbservices.org

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Oceans, Lakes and Rivers
Swimming Safety

safe swimmingWith the steady heat in the summer, it seems everyone wants to be in or around a body of water.  No matter how old you are, or how experienced of a swimmer, there are a few simple standards to follow to ensure your trip to your favorite swimming hole is safe.    

When swimming at your favorite ocean, lake or river, it is very important to “buddy up.”   Even experienced swimmers can become tired, or get muscle cramps which can make it difficult to get out of the water.  When you have a swimming partner, you can keep an eye out for each other, or go for help in case of an emergency.  It is also a good idea to be as prepared as possible.  Try learning some life-saving skills such as CPR and rescue techniques, which can help you save a life. 

If you are a beginning swimmer, or just not a strong swimmer, don’t go into water that’s so deep you can’t touch the bottom.  If you get tired or a little uneasy in the water, it’s a good idea to take a break for awhile and rest your body. 

It is very important to swim in safe areas only, and in places which are supervised by a lifeguard.  Swimming in an open body of water, such as an ocean, lake or river is much different than swimming in a pool.  You need more energy to handle the currents and other conditions in the open water.

If you find yourself stuck in a current, don’t panic and don’t fight it.  Swim with the current, gradually trying to make your way back to shore. Areas with notoriously strong currents are usually off limits when it comes to swimming, so make sure you know where it is safe to swim.

If an area is posted with “No Swimming” or “No Diving” signs, pay attention! Diving injuries can cause permanent spinal cord damage, paralysis and sometimes death.  Even if you aren’t diving head first, check the water’s depth and make sure there are no hidden rocks or obstructions.  Lakes and rivers can be cloudy and muddy making hazards very hard to see, and the waves in oceans can be high and strong making it difficult to know what lies beneath.

Ocean Swimming Safety

Check surf conditions before you enter the water. See if a warning flag is up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions or any potential hazards. If there is rough surf, stay out of the water.

Keep within the flags that designate where you can swim. Swim only where there is a lifeguard on duty.

Know local weather conditions and prepare for electrical storms. Water is a conductor of electricity, so stop swimming as soon as you see lightning or hear thunder. 

Know how to handle ocean currents and be aware of undertows, drift and rip currents.
Don't try to swim against a current if caught in one. Try to gradually swim out of the current by swimming across it.  If a current carries you parallel to shore, try to swim toward shore while moving along with the current.  If you are being carried away from shore, swim out of the current, not against it, by moving parallel to the shore.

Use caution with surf boards, boogie boards, tubes, etc. When using these items, stay in designated areas and be aware of other swimmers.

Stay away from piers, pilings and diving platforms.

Look out for marine life—you may get stung. If you do get stung by a jellyfish or a sea anemone, soak the injured part in salt water and apply a baking soda paste as soon as possible. Do not rub the wound or apply ammonia or fresh water.  If an allergic reaction occurs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Wear foot protection as your feet can get burned from the sand or cut from glass in the sand.

Stay out of the water when overheated—you could easily tire.

Lake and River Swimming Safety

Select a clean, well-maintained area with a clean bathhouse, restrooms and a litter-free environment.

Select an area with good water quality and safe natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs and aquatic plant life are hazards. Water pollution can cause health problems for swimmers. Strong tides, big waves and currents can turn an event that began as fun into tragedy.

Make sure the water is deep enough before entering head-first. A feet-first entry is much safer than diving.

Be sure rafts and docks are in good condition with no loose boards or exposed nails. Never swim under raft or dock and always look before jumping off to be sure no one is in the way.

Avoid drainage ditches for water run-off. After heavy rains, they can quickly change into raging rivers that can take a human life; even the strongest swimmers are no match for the power of the water.