Don’t swim unless it’s safe…In light of recent swimming tragedies and a number of close calls this summer throughout Minnesota, I urge everyone to be safe in the water.
By: Steve O'Neil, Duluth Budgeteer News
In light of recent swimming tragedies and a number of close calls this summer throughout Minnesota, I urge everyone to be safe in the water.
Children should never be allowed to swim unsupervised by adults anywhere. MedlinePlus reports that drowning can happen quickly and silently in as little as
2 inches of water. The CDC reports that most accidental drownings of children ages 1 to 4 occur in residential pools and most of those victims were reported to be within the home less than five minutes prior, while in the care of at least one parent. Adults who are supervising children should remain alert, vigilant and never turn away or get distracted, not even for a moment.
Do not swim under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Even strong swimmers can succumb to the effects of alcohol and drugs while in the water. Being under the influence of either or both seriously impairs judgment and coordination and increases the risk of injury or drowning.
Never swim alone
As tempting as it may be to catch some time alone in the backyard pool, deserted lake, stream or river, do not do it. Accidents happen even to young, strong, healthy individuals who are good swimmers. Always swim with a buddy in a residential pool and with a lifeguard present in any other pool or body of water.
Do not swim during thunderstorms
Never swim during a thunderstorm. Follow lifeguard instructions for exiting the pool. If swimming in a residential pool, exit the water immediately when you hear thunder. Lightning often strikes water, and water conducts electricity. If you swim and lightning strikes, you risk serious injury or death.
Avoid diving headfirst
Do not dive headfirst into shallow or murky water, or water of uncertain depth. Diving in shallow water can cause injuries and drowning. Diving into murky water such as ponds, quarries or lakes without knowing the depth or underwater environment is dangerous. Rocks and other objects in the water pose hazards. It is best to enter the water feet first.
Use proper flotation devices
The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that inflatable toys, rafts, air mattresses and water wings should never be used as lifesaving devices for children and that only life jackets and life preservers approved by the U.S. Coast Guard should be used. Always wear an approved life jacket when boating, even close to land.
Rip tides and red flags
Swimming in currents and waves is much more difficult than swimming in a pool. The conditions of the currents and waves can change quickly, unlike in a pool where there is consistency. Swimming in currents and waves will also cause fatigue more quickly than swimming in a pool. Smooth water located between breaking waves could signal the presence of a rip current. Know the meaning of, and obey warnings represented by, colored beach flags. Different beaches may use different colors, but in Duluth the colors used are:
Red: Beach is closed to the public
Yellow: Medium hazard
Green: Calm conditions, but caution is still necessary
For additional information, www.parkpointbeach.org posts swimming conditions for beaches on Lake Superior in Duluth. Finally, take your cell phone to the beach. In case of an emergency, call 911.
Steve O’Neil is the St. Louis County Commissioner for the 2nd District and the chairman of Health and Human Services. Contact him at 218-726-2359, OneilS@stlouiscountymn.gov, or 100 North Fifth Avenue West, Room 202, Duluth MN 55802