Memorial Day weekend is the official kick-off of summer. Each year thousands of San Diegans and visitors are drawn to pools and the beaches in the area. For many it will be their first time swimming since last season. Last year San Diego lifeguards performed 5,604 water rescues at city beaches. The city of San Diego released a list of safety tips to keep in mind this weekend and through the season.
Drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In California, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for people under the age of 15.
For children in the one to two age rage, drowning is the leading cause of injury death. Children under the age of one are most often drown in bathtubs, buckets or toilets. Most young children who drown in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight for less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both of parents.
City lifeguards want people to know about the following safety tips. Following these tips will prevent drownings and other aquatic accidents.
- Swim near a lifeguard:
United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) statistics over at 10 year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards.
- Learn to swim:
Learning to swim is the best defense against drowning. Teach children to swim at an early age. Children who are not taught when they are very young tend to avoid swim instruction as they age.
- Never swim alone:
Many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help. At least have someone onshore watching you.
- Don't fight the current
: USLA has found that 80 percent of rescues by USLA affiliated lifeguards at beaches are caused by rip currents. The currents are formed by surf and gravity, because once surf pushes water up the slope of the beach, gravity pulls it back. This can created concentrated rivers of water moving offshore. Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there is no undercurrent, just an offshore current. If you are 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 you to safety.
- Swim sober:
Alcohol is a major factor in drowning. It can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability. Alcohol and drugs also impair good judgement, which may cause people to take risks they would not otherwise take.
- Leash your board:
Surfboards and bodyboards should be used only with a leash. Leashes are usually attached to the board and the ankle or wrist. They are available in most shops where surfboards and bodyboards are bought or rented. With a leash, the user will not become separated from the flotation device. One additional consideration is a breakaway leash. A few drownings have been attributed to leashes becoming entangled in underwater obstructions. A breakaway leash avoids this problem.
- Don't float where you can't swim:
Non-swimmers often use floatation devices, like inflatable rafts, to go offshore. If they fall off, they can quickly drown. No one should use a floatation device unless they are able to swim. Use of a leash is not enough because a non-swimmer may panic and be unable to swim back to the flotation device, even with a leash. The only exception is a person wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket.
- Life jackets=boating safety:
Some 80 percent of fatalities associated with boating accidents are from drowning. Most involve people who never expected to end up in the water but fell overboard or ended up in the water when the boat sank. Children are particularly susceptible to this problem and in many states, children are required to be in lifejackets whenever they are aboard boats.
- Don't dive headfirst and protect your neck:
Serious, lifelong injuries, including paraplegia, occur every year due to diving headfirst into unknown water and striking the bottom. Bodysurfing can result in a serious neck injury when the swimmer's neck strikes bottom. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, then go feet first the first time; and use caution while bodysurfing, always extending a hand ahead of you.
- At home, you're the lifeguard:
Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in many states for children age one and two. A major reason for this is home pools, which can be death traps for toddlers. Many of these deaths occur in the few moments it takes a parent to answer a telephone or a doorbell. NEVER leave a child alone anywhere near a pool. Make sure it is completely fenced, that the fence is locked, and that there is no access from the home to the pool. Don't let your child or a neighbor's child get into the pool when you're not there.