Summer Safety

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Schools are on summer recess, pools are open and people across the country are looking for fun ways to cool down as summer temperatures heat up. As you head out to the beach or the pool or, perhaps, take to the waterways for a boating excursion, the City of Fairfax Fire Department encourages you and your family to keep safety in mind.

Water Safety

Pools, lakes, ponds, and beaches can be exciting opportunities for summer fun and can offer cool relief from hot weather. But water also can be dangerous if you don't take the proper precautions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9 people drown per day in the U.S. In addition, for every person who drowns, four times as many people nearly drown. Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children under the age of 15. Young children are especially vulnerable as they can drown in less than one inch of water.

The City of Fairfax Fire Department offers the following recommendations for staying safe in, on and around the water:

  • Learn to swim. The best thing that anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim.
  • Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.
  • Swim in supervised areas only.
  • Obey all rules and posted signs.
  • Don’t mix alcohol and swimming. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance and coordination and affects your swimming and diving skills.
  • Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts; stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
  • Make sure the water is deep enough before entering head-first; dive in head-first only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.
  • Always watch children closely when they're in or near any water; swimming areas are not the only places where water can be dangerous. Drowning also can happen where you'd least expect it - the sink, the toilet, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rain water.
  • Don’t assume that just because your child knows how to swim, he or she is not at risk for drowning. When around or in the water, children should be supervised at all times.

Home Swimming Pools

Most drownings occur in home swimming pools. The City of Fairfax Fire Department recommends the following precautions when using home pools:

  • Learn to swim. The best thing that anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim.
  • Never leave children unobserved around water. Children love to play in water. Let them splash and play to their heart’s content – as long as you are watching.
  • Install a telephone by the pool or keep a cordless phone nearby so you can call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and insist that babysitters, grandparents, and others who care for your children know CPR.
  • Enclose the pool completely with a self-locking, self-closing fence with vertical bars. Openings in the fence should not be more than four inches wide. The house should not be included as part of the barrier for the pool.
  • Never leave furniture or other objects near the fence that could enable children to climb over.
  • Keep basic lifesaving equipment by the pool and learn how to use it; poles, ropes and personal flotation devices are all recommended.

Boating Safety

According to the United Safe Boating Institute, about 1,000 people die in boating accidents in the U.S. each year. Nine out of 10 of them drown. Whether you are an experienced captain or just want to rent a canoe for an afternoon, adhering to a few simple guidelines can help ensure a more safe and enjoyable boating experience for everyone:

  • Learn to swim. The best thing that anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim.
  • Watch the weather; know local weather conditions and prepare for electrical storms. Bring a portable radio to get weather updates. Stop boating as soon as you see or hear a storm.
  • Bring extra gear you may need; a flashlight, extra batteries, matches, a map of where you are, flares, sunscreen, a first aid kit, and extra sunglasses are all items to consider. Place items in a watertight pouch or in a container that floats.
  • Tell someone where you are going, who is with you, and how long you will be away.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets for yourself and your passengers.
  • Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination – over 50 percent of drownings from boating incidents involve alcohol.
  • Check your boat, equipment, boat balance, engine and fuel supply before you depart.

Ocean and Beach Safety

Summer means fun in the sun but water hazards and heat-related illnesses can ruin a day at the beach. The City of Fairfax Fire Department recommends the following precautions when visiting the ocean:

 

  • Learn to swim. The best thing that anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim.
  • Stay within designated swimming areas, ideally within the visibility of a lifeguard.
  • Never swim alone; even a good swimmer can have an unexpected medical emergency while in the water.
  • Check surf conditions before you enter the water; check for warning flags or ask lifeguards about any potential hazards.
  • Stay away from piers, pilings and other objects while in the water.
  • Keep a lookout for aquatic life; water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants.
  • Do not swim out too far; always make sure that you will have enough energy to swim back to shore.
  • If you are caught in a current do not try to swim against it. Move gradually out of the current by swimming across it.
  • Protect your skin against the harsh effects of the sun. Sunscreens with high sun protection factors (for example, 15) are recommended.
  • Drink plenty of water even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to regulate internal temperature and avoid dehydration.
  • Watch for signs of heat stroke including hot, red, and dry skin, changes in consciousness, rapid pulse, and shallow breathing. Heat stroke causes the victim’s internal temperature control system to stop working and is life threatening. Move the victim to a cooler place and cool the body using wet sheets or cold packs if available. Keep the victim lying down and seek medical attention immediately.

More summer and water safety tips are available from the American Red Cross and can be found at http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/healthtips/safetywater.html. If you have any questions about summer safety, please call Life Safety Officer at 703.385.7830.

HAVE A FUN AND SAFE SUMMER!