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Summer is no time to take vacation from water safety

Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2005

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According to the National Safety Council drowning claims the lives of more than 4,000 people every year.

The good news is that most water tragedies can be prevented by remembering a few basics. Connie Harvey, American Red Cross national health and safety expert, offers the following tips for keeping everyone healthy and safe:

* Learn to swim and swim well. One of the best things anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is learn to swim. "Many times a drowning victim had no intention of being in the water in the first place," Harvey points out. No one, including adults, should ever swim alone. Adults should practice "reach supervision," which means to always be within arm's length of a child in the water to prevent an emergency.

* Consider skills and limits. With no practice, it is a safe bet that the degree of skill exhibited last season will not be the same this season. And don't assume those skills are as strong in different environments -- like the beach or lake versus the pool. "It's a good idea to get acclimated to the water at the start of each season and any time you head off to a new environment," Harvey recommends.

* Outfit everyone with the proper gear. Kids -- and even adults -- who are not strong swimmers or who appear to rely on inflatable toys for safety should use U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices -- life jackets -- whenever in or around the water. Everyone, including strong swimmers, should use an approved life jacket when boating. Each person should have the appropriate life jacket for his or her weight and size, which is found in the Coast Guard stamp. "Nowadays, life jackets for kids are outfitted with popular characters so let them choose their gear," she suggests. Make a day out of learning the rules of water safety and shopping for safety equipment at the local pool supply store or mass distributor.

* Always keep basic lifesaving equipment by the residential pool and know how to use it. A first aid kit, cordless phone, phone list with emergency contact information, reaching pole and a ring buoy with a nylon line attached are recommended. First aid kits, like the Good Housekeeping Institute top-rated soft one from the Red Cross, should contain plastic face shields, whichcan help prevent disease transmission. Cordless phones allow you to make that 911 call and receive calls without leaving the area.

In addition, the Red Cross recommends pools be surrounded on all sides by a fence at least 4 feet high. It should not provide any footholds, which would allow a child to climb over, or spacing to climb through. The fence should have a self-closing, self-locking gate that is locked when the pool is not in use. These items coupled with pool rules and an emergency action plan -- similar to a fire escape plan -- ensures the whole family is prepared.

* Pack a "safety" bag for a day at the beach or lake. Waterproof sunscreen with an SPF 15 of higher, water shoes to keep feet safe from the heat and sharp objects on land, and plenty of water are musts. All containers should be plastic to prevent injuries from breaking glass. Also, a hat and sunglasses keep eyes safe from dangerous UV rays.

* Learn water safety, first aid and CPR. Getting water safety, first aid and CPR skills is a good idea for everyone -- especially caregivers for your children, including grandparents, older siblings and babysitters.

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Related info:
National Safety Council

Red Cross
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