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Water Safety: Open Water

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

Open water presents many challenges, even to the experienced swimmer. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adolescents comprise three-quarters of drownings in natural water settings, and give this age group the 2nd highest drowning rate.

"The increased risk for fatal drowning in adolescents can be attributed to multiple factors, including overestimation of skills, underestimation of dangerous situations, engaging in high-risk and impulsive behaviors, and substance use."

Here are some tips to keep you and your child safe in open water:

Wear Life Jackets:

According to U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics in 2018, 84% of drowning fatalities while boating were not wearing a life jacket.

Know your location:

Take a cell phone with you and be able to explain how to reach your location to emergency crews.

Know the differences:

Open water is very different from swimming in a pool due to factors like cold water, currents, weather, water clarity and potential hazards under the water.

Be aware of rip currents:

If swimming in the ocean, learn how to identify a rip current. Avoid rip currents and learn how to escape them by swimming parallel to the shore.

Never Swim Alone:

Swim in lifeguarded areas, designate a "water-watcher" to remain on shore or on the vessel and never swim alone.

Look for the flags:

Beaches with swimming access will have flags to identify the threat of swimming due to currents and weather. Double red flags indicate the water is closed for public use.

Think safe:

Always jump feet first, be aware of depth and underwater hazards.

Avoid alcohol use with water activities:

Alcohol impairs your judgment, slows your reflexes and affects your body temperature. Studies have shown that alcohol may have been a factor in about 50 percent of all adult drowning deaths.

Have the skills:

Swimming, floating, and treading water are necessary skills for this swim environment.

Unlike a swimming pool which presents a familiar swimming situation every time, swimming in a natural body of water, even at the same location, can present a different swim experience from one day to the next. Each swim experience needs to be evaluated even if you have previously swam there before safely. Prevent drownings in open water by taking time to prepare and discuss water safety with your loved ones today!

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