Swim Safely: Tips for Being Smart in the Water

Here are some tips that can help keep everyone safe this summer:


Properly Supervise Young Children

By far, the most drownings occur in children age one to four years old. Drownings are the leading cause of accidental death in young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They can very easily wander out of the sight of adult supervision, and find themselves in distress very quickly. At home, making sure your pool is properly fenced off and doors leading from the home to the pool are secured with child-proof locks will be the single most important thing you can do to keep a child from falling into the water.

If possible, enrolling your child in swim classes will help them should they fall into the pool, but it is no guarantee that they will do well without adult supervision.


Make Sure Flotation Devices Are Easily Accessible

At home, this means a certified flotation device is available at the water’s edge. On a boat, the time to put on a life vest is BEFORE you get on the vessel or in the water. Life vests are of little help once a person is already struggling to stay above water. In addition, inflatable devices like rafts and water wings may not be adequate to help someone in distress.

Another important piece of equipment to have nearby while at home is your pool skimmer. Its length makes it a great object to help pull victims closer to you without having to enter the water yourself.


Make Sure You Are Properly Trained

Entering the water to save someone who is drowning is very dangerous. Victims are in total panic mode and are literally fighting to survive. If you are not a strong swimmer, or the victim is larger than you, it is very easy to get pulled under water yourself. You can’t save anyone if you’ve become a victim too. Whenever possible, the better approach is to make attempts to save the victim while you are out of the water by throwing them a rope or flotation device.

If you must enter the water, do so with a flotation device, and keep that device between you and the victim. If you are with other people, make sure someone is calling for help while you are attempting your rescue. Once in the water, approach the victim from behind. If the drowning victim begins to grab you or pull you down, your best move is to swim down under water and then away. The drowning victim will not follow you under water.

Adults, teens and pre-teen children should take Basic Life Support (BLS) courses to learn proper first aid and CPR.


Be Constantly Aware Of the Surroundings

Many people think that drownings occur with a lot of screaming for help and splashing of water. This is often not the case. The struggle is occurring beneath the water, with rapid movement of arms and legs in attempt to keep their head above water. The victim doesn’t always scream for help because they are already struggling for air and any intake they have is used to breathe rather than yell.

In a pool setting, beware of the pool depth, and make sure no diving or jumping is allowed in shallow areas. In a lake or river, beware of suddenly changing depths, water temperature and currents. Any or all of those factors can make a calm appearing surface a very dangerous environment for a swimmer. Sometimes lake or river drownings occur without any warning at all – a swimmer can go under the surface and not return.

Swimming and water sports are some of the best parts of summer in Michigan. Amid all the fun, though, be smart, be aware and respect the water. We want to keep you safe this summer!