This is the fourth article in a series that Wilton Fire Chief Ron Kanterman has written on summer water safety.

As we embark on the fourth in our series of water safety articles, we look at swimming safely in lakes, streams, rivers and the ocean.

Water and Weather Preparedness

Plan your trip by getting the forecast and knowing where you’ll be enjoying your water borne activities. Is there an approved swim area? Are lifeguards on duty?

Keep an eye out for:

  • Unexpected changes in air or water temperature
  • Fast moving currents, waves and rapids, even in shallow water
  • Hazards such as dams, rocks, debris floating on top of the water or on the bottom. Never dive head first in to an unknown body of water.
  • Aquatic life and under water vegetation.
  • Sudden drop off, ledge or change in water depth.
  • Other people around you including boats.

Water Safety at the Water Front

  • Ensure everyone knows how to swim. Tragically, the news has reported that non-swimmers have gotten into the water and in trouble already this season.
  • Swim in designated areas with life guards.
  • Keep children under constant supervision. Do not get distracted. A one minute text message could mean the difference between a good day at the lake and a family tragedy.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation devices for non-swimmers or weak swimmers. Do not depend on water wings or inflatable toys.
  • Always swim with a buddy. (The Boy Scouts have used this system for over 75 years and it works!)

How to Respond

  • If someone is missing
    1. Check the water first. Every second counts.
    2. Alert the on-duty Lifeguard.
    3. Don’t wait. Have someone call 9-1-1.
  • If someone is in trouble in the water:
    1. Use the “reach-throw method.” Reach with a pole or other long handled device or throw a buoy or other inflated device.
    2. Only go in if you are a trained water rescue person/lifeguard or if you can stand up in the body of water with your head above the water line. A drowning victim will very often pull their rescuer under resulting in a double drowning.

Remember:  BLOCK-WATCH-LEARN

  • Anyone watching children who are in or around water must understand that drowning happens quickly and suddenly. Never take your eyes off of those you supervise, not even for a moment. (WATCH)
  • Any source of water is a potential drowning hazard especially for young children and weak swimmers. (LEARN)
  • It’s a known fact that people can drown in as little as 3 inches of water. (LEARN)
  • Know how to respond to a swimmer in distress and get everyone to swimming lessons. (LEARN)

For more information on water safety and drown prevention, go to the Red Cross website or the Prevent Drownings website.

Remember: Drowning is not limited to the pool, pond, lake or the ocean. It happened in bath tubs, hot tubs and even 5 gallon water pails.