Swimming is one of the most popular summer activities in the Lowcountry. With so much water surrounding us, the best thing you can do is make sure everyone in your family learns how to swim.
Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water such as the ocean, rivers, ponds and lagoons. Here a few tips for staying safe around water.
Swimmers: Since most drowning victims had no intention of being in the water, and most drownings occur within 10 to 30 feet of safety, it is important to know how to swim. Never rely on float toys to stay afloat.
Don’t take chances overestimating your swimming skills. Swim only in designated areas and never swim alone. No one can anticipate changing ocean currents, riptides, sudden storms or other hidden dangers.
What is a riptide? It’s an ocean current that has nothing to do with the tides. A rip current happens as water that’s built up on shore returns to the ocean – all those waves need to go somewhere!
Rip currents are often found near fixed objects, like piers and reefs, which is why these are “no swimming” areas.
If you swim into a rip current (you’ll feel it pulling you out to sea), don’t panic. Swim parallel to shore until you feel the pull stop. You can then swim back to shore.
Divers: Be careful about diving. Teens are more likely than any other age group to suffer diving injuries, many of which can result in permanent spinal cord damage or death.
Dive only in areas that are known to be safe for diving, such as the deep end of a supervised pool. A “no diving” sign means that the water isn’t safe for a head-first entry.
Watch children! Each year, about 200 children drown and several thousand others are treated in hospitals for submersion accidents – accidents that leave children with permanent brain damage and respiratory health problems.
Remember, it takes only a few seconds for a small child to wander away. Children have a natural curiosity and attraction to water, so watch them closely.
Cold water survival. Obviously, we don’t have to worry about cold water during summers in the Lowcountry, but should you visit a northern locale, keep these cautions in mind.
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Violent shivering develops, which might give way to confusion and a loss of body movement.
If you fall into cold water, in any season, hypothermia may occur. It’s important to remember:
• Don’t discard clothing. Clothing layers provide some warmth. This includes shoes and hats.
• Wear your life jacket. This helps hold heat into the core areas of your body.
No alcohol. Unfortunately, many people ignore this warning and each year about 3,000 of them are wrong – dead wrong.
More than half of all people that drown had consumed alcohol prior to their accident. Just one beer will impair your balance, vision, judgment and reaction time, therefore making you a danger to yourself and others.
Keep these tips in mind while you’re having fun this summer – and stay water safe.
Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue.