In Over Your Head?

As most of the US slowly creeps into warmer weather most of us will be spending more time on, in, and around open water. Whether we are swimming in the backyard pool, at the beach, or boating in the nearby lake or ocean, the risk is real. The month of May signals an increase of downing tragedies across the United States. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children between ages 1-4. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), ten drowning deaths per day occur in the US. In 2016, the National Safety Board reported 3,602 deaths due to drowning, and the CDC reports that worldwide, it is the leading cause of unintentional death. 

With this potential in mind, this is a great time to review some basic, but relevant water based safety practices. 


Swimming Safety 

A few safety precautions for swimmers: 

  • Don't go in the water unless you know how to swim; swim lessons are available for all ages. 
  • Never swim alone. 
  • Learn CPR and rescue techniques. 
  • Make sure the body of water matches your skill level; swimming in a pool is much different than swimming in a lake or river, where more strength is needed to handle currents. 
  • If you do get caught in a current, don't try to fight it; stay calm and float with it, or swim parallel to the shore until you can swim free. 
  • Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard. 
  • Don't push or jump on others. 
  • Don't dive in unfamiliar areas. 
  • Never drink alcohol when swimming; alcohol is involved in about half of all male teen drownings. 

Boating Safety 

When a good day on the water turns tragic, according to the U.S. Coast Guard the reason is typically one of the following: 

  1. A passenger falls overboard 
  2. A boat capsizes 
  3. A boat collides with another boat or object 

A few safety precautions for boaters: 

Make Proper Use of Lifejackets. Did you know that the majority of drowning victims are the result of boaters not wearing their lifejackets? Make sure that your family and friends aren’t part of this statistic by assigning and fitting each member of your onboard team with a life jacket before departure. Wear it! 

Avoid Alcohol. Practice boating safety at all times by saving the alcohol for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved, and studies have shown that the effects of alcohol are exacerbated by sun and wind. 


Image courtesy American Red Cross

Learn to Swim. If you’re going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety includes knowing how to swim. Local organizations, such as the American Red Cross and others, offer training for all ages and abilities. Check to see what classes are offered in your area. 

Take a Boating Course. Beginning boaters and experienced experts alike need to be familiar with the boating safety rules of operation. Boater education requirements vary by state; however, some require validated completion of at least one boating safety course. Regardless of your individual state's requirements, it's always important to be educated and prepared for every circumstance that might arise. You can learn boating safety rules by taking a local community course or online course to help educate yourself. 

Consider a Free Vessel Safety Check. Take advantage of a free vessel safety check from the US Coast Guard. They offer complimentary boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of specific safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. Free of charge, they will provide a specialist to check out your boat and make helpful boating safety tips and recommendations. They also offer virtual online safety checks as well. 


May is National Drowning Awareness Prevention Month! For more important information, please see this edition of Wachs Weekly!