This summer, make water safety a priority

Did you know that May is National Water Safey Month?  As Memorial Day weekend approaches and pools across the region open, it’s a perfect time to review a few tips inspired by the National Water Safety Month and YMCA’s Know Before You Go Web sites. The time you take to read them could help to save a life:

1. Never leave a child unattended in a bathtub, pool, or any body of water. A drowning can occur in just inches of water. According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1-14 and the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4.

2. Brief baby-sitters on water safety, and emphasize the need for constant supervision. In 10 seconds, a child in a bathtub can be submerged. In 2 minutes, a child can loose consciousness, and in 4-6 minutes a child submerged in a tub or pool can sustain permanent brain damage.

3. Teach children water-safety and swimming skills as early as possible. Children can generally start aquatic programs by the time they’re 1, and can start formal swimming lessons at age 4.

4. Equip doors and windows that exit near a pool area with alarms.

5. Learn CPR, and post the instructions in a conspicous place.

6. Keep rescue equipment and a first aid kit poolside.

7. Never leave objects that could attract a child, such as toys, in the pool or pool area.

8. Don’t think you’ll hear someone who’s in trouble in the water; child drowning is a silent death, with no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble. Most children do not yell for help. Non-swimmers or exhausted swimmers are unable to call for help. Drowning victims may be struggling under the water.

Want to learn more about water safety? Visit the American Red Cross.

And while we’re on the subject of water safety, here are a few tips for boaters:

1. Always wear your lifejacket.

2. Know your limits, and know your boat’s limits.

3. Never boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

4. Keep personal floatation devices on board and at hand at all times.

A few sobering statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard:

A 2009 study found that alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 16% of that year’s boating-related deaths.

The study showed that operator inattention, operator inexperience, excessive speed, improper lookout and alcohol rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents. It also found that most accidents occur in smaller boats: Seven out of every ten boaters who drowned were using boats less than 21 feet in length.

For more on boating safety, check out the Sea Tow Foundation’s Web site.