May 25, 2022

Water Safety: Tips For Staying Safe This Summer

Summer is almost here, and with summer comes sunny, warm days spent by the pool or at the beach. But, do you know how to keep you and your family safe in and around the water? According to the Red Cross, it’s important to first become water competent before you jump in this summer. This involves water smarts, swimming skills, and helping others. Keep reading to learn some water safety tips and what to know before diving in this summer.


Be Water Smart

The Red Cross defines “water smart” as being aware of your surroundings whether you’re swimming in a pool or the ocean. Before jumping in, it’s important to know your physical limitations, especially when swimming in open water. While you may be able to swim well in a heated pool, that doesn’t mean you’ll swim well in cold water. Additionally, you should never swim alone. Always swim with a lifeguard or other water watcher (such as a friend or family member) present. And while everyone loves a pool party, it’s important to swim sober in order to stay safe.

You should also know how to call for help in your area, whether that means contacting the beach lifeguard or local emergency services. 911 is the emergency dispatch hotline for the United States, but the number will be different if you’re traveling out of the country for a summer trip.

Finally, don’t forget to understand and adjust for the unique risks of the water environment you are in, such as:

  • River currents
  • Ocean rip currents (These are frequent on the Great Lakes too!)
  • Water temperature
  • Shallow or murky water
  • Underwater hazards, such as vegetation and animals


Swimming Skills

There are essential swimming skills that everyone should know. You can find low-cost swimming lessons from multiple sources in your community, including the Red Cross, YMCA, local recreation center, or local aquatic center. Here are a few important skills identified by the Red Cross that swimmers should be able to perform in every water environment they encounter.

  1. Enter water that’s over your head, then return to the surface
  2. Float or tread water for at least 1 minute
  3. Turn over and turn around in the water
  4. Swim at least 25 yards
  5. Exit the water


Helping Others

An important part of water safety is knowing how to help others in an emergency. These actions identified by the Red Cross will help your family avoid troubles – and help you respond if an emergency occurs. First, pay close attention to children or weak swimmers you are supervising in or near water. Know the signs that someone is drowning. These include not making forward progress in the water, being vertical in the water but unable to move or tread water, and/or being motionless face down in the water. Educate yourself on ways to safely assist a drowning person, such as “reach or throw, don’t go.” Additionally, learn CPR and First Aid you can utilize in the event of an emergency. You can find classes locally at community centers, hospitals, and through the Red Cross.


Layers of Protection

Another way you can create a safe water environment this summer is by employing “layers of protection.” This includes using barriers around home pools and hot tubs, providing life jackets, and closely supervising children. Life jackets should be worn by small children and weak swimmers any time they are near the water, and by everyone when on/in oceans/open water and when boating, skiing, and doing other water-based sports.

Life jackets should always be US Coast Guard approved and fit properly. You can find sizing guidelines on the inside of the life jacket. Check the fit by pulling on the shoulders of the jacket. It should fit snugly and not go over the user’s head.


Rip Currents

A common swim hazard is the rip current, a powerful channeled current of water flowing away from shore. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes beaches. A common misconception is that rip currents pull people under the water. This is not true, but rather they pull people further away from shore. These currents often form near sandbars, shore structures such as piers, and water outlets such as river outlets, and are more common when waves are higher than three feet.

Signs that dangerous currents are present:
  • Muddy/sandy water
  • Breaks in wave formations


3 Steps to Safety:
  1. Stay calm. Remember that the current pulls you farther away from shore, not under the water.
  2. Swim to the side, perpendicular to the direction of the current.
  3. Head for shore.


Stay safe by avoiding the water when the waves are high, avoiding swimming near piers, and remembering the three steps to safety.