CLEVELAND. — In conjunction with National Safe Boating Week, which began Saturday, the Coast Guard encourages swimmers in the Great Lakes region to take a few simple safety precautions before and while swimming to ensure their safety.
Drowning is the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the United States. On average, 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger.
In an effort to save lives, the Coast Guard recommends the following for all swimmers:
- Swim near a lifeguard. U.S. Lifesaving Association statistics, during a 10-year period, show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times greater than drowning at a beach with lifeguards.
- Never swim alone. Many drownings involve single swimmers. Learn water rescue techniques you can use if someone you are swimming with is in danger.
- Don’t fight the current. If caught in a rip current, don’t fight it by trying to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax, then swim to shore. Most rip currents are narrow and a short swim parallel to shore will bring a swimmer to safety.
- Swim sober. Alcohol is a major factor in drowning. Alcohol can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability. Both alcohol and drugs impair good judgment, which may cause people to take risks they would not otherwise take.
- Don’t float where you can’t swim. Non-swimmers and weak swimmers often use flotation devices, such as inflatable rafts, to go offshore. If they fall off, they can quickly drown. No one should use a flotation device unless they are able to swim. Weak swimmers should also consider wearing an inherently buoyant Coast Guard-approved Type I, II or III life jacket.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Wear a life jacket while participating in any activity during which you would unexpectedly enter the water, such as fishing from breakwalls or piers.
- Avoid unnecessary risks. Walking along breakwalls is risky because it only takes a momentary loss of footing to invite tragedy. Jumping from breakwalls, waterside structures or into unfamiliar water is extremely dangerous since unseen underwater hazards may exist.
Additional water safety tips are available on the U.S. Lifesaving Association website.