As we all emerge from our homes and most states reduce or eliminate lockdowns stemming from the Coronavirus, we are all eager to get outside and enjoy the sun and warm weather of summer. For many of us, that includes time on or in the water. Over the last year or so, many families decided to purchase kayaks, boats, and paddleboards to better enjoy their local areas. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the “rules of the road” when they get on the water.
In the last week, there were two separate drownings in New Jersey. One individual was swimming with a friend when a lifeguard was not on duty. The other drowned while paddle boarding at a local pond.
While sometimes accidents happen, there are a number of things you can do to make your day on the water as safe as possible.
Swim only when lifeguards are present: As I mentioned, the first drowning took place when two friends went swimming when the pond was closed and lifeguards were not present. Even the best swimmer can run into problems at any time. Make sure to never swim alone and only swim where lifeguards are present.
Watch the kids: Whether it is the pool, the pond, or down the shore, kids are in constant motion. When I was little my mother would set up our spot on the beach right next to the lifeguard so we wouldn’t get lost. At home we weren’t allowed in the pool unless she or another adult was in the backyard with us. It is important you keep an eye on your little ones all the time because things can go wrong quickly.
Wear a PDF: Every year I tell countless people to wear their personal flotation device (PFD). Whether you are on a motor boat, kayaking, or paddle boarding, it is incredibly important. And unlike in years past, the latest PFD models are sleek and comfortable. Make sure to get one that is the proper size and fit for your weight and chest size as well as your activity. A PFD for fishing will have different requirements from a PFD for water skiing. No matter the style, it should be Coast Guard approved. Talk to a professional at your local boating supply store to find out which PFD is right for you and your family members. After all, it is called a “life vest” for a reason.
Do not swim or drive drunk: It may sound obvious, but alcohol use does not mix well with operating a boat or swimming. Unlike when you slam on the brakes in a car, a boat does not stop automatically when you ease off the throttle. Alcohol and drugs can limit your response times and numb the nerves. You may think fishing and beer drinking go hand-in-hand; I promise you, they do not.
Learn basic first aid and CPR: In an emergency, seconds count. Knowing first aid and cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can help an accident victim until emergency services arrive. The Red Cross offers online classes for a variety of topics, including CPR and first aid.
Use common sense: At the end of the day, use the common sense God gave you. If you think something might not be a good idea, like swimming at night when no lifeguard is on duty after having a few, go with your gut. It might save your life.
Enjoy the summer! After the last year and a half, we certainly deserve some fun. Just make sure you and your friends and family are safe.