Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water such as the ocean, lakes, ponds and lagoons. Here are a few tips for staying safe around water.
Swimmers: Since most drowning victims had no intention of being in the water and most people drown 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.
Riptide: What is this? It actually is 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.
Children: Each year, about 200 children drown and several thousand others are treated in hospitals for submersion accidents, some of which leave children with permanent brain damage and respiratory health problems. Pay close attention to children around water! Children have a natural curiosity and attraction to water, and it takes only a few seconds for them to wander away.
Don’t drink alcohol and swim. 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.
Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue.