Water you waiting for? Learn these 5 tips for staying safe in the water


dad putting life jacket on girlIf the past few weeks are any indicator, it’s going to be a hot summer here in King County. The National Weather Service is predicting higher than normal summer temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and we expect to see record numbers of people flocking to the water for relief from the heat.

Unfortunately, with the increase in beach and river goers, we are also likely to see an increase in drownings, both fatal and non-fatal. So how can you make sure your day at the beach is just that? Review these safety tips from our Violence and Injury Prevention Manager, Tony Gomez.

  1. Swim at a lifeguarded beach.
    While we all like to think that we would recognize the warning signs if someone we loved was struggling in the water, for small children and adults who are not strong swimmers, drowning can happen quickly and without drawing notice. Lifeguards are trained to recognize if a swimmer is at risk or in distress so they can react quickly and save their life. That’s why a lifeguarded beach is one of the safest swimming destinations, and we’re lucky to have over 30 in the King County area.
  2. Take advantage of free or reduced-price swim lessons in your area.
    Many of the lifeguarded beaches in King County offer free or reduced price swim lessons, both during the day and in the evening. And if you can’t make it to any of the life guarded beaches, you can also ask your local pool or aquatic center if they offer scholarships or reduced-price lessons throughout the summer. Insider tip: Pools are often less crowded in the summer than the beaches, so they are a great way to beat the heat and the crowds!
  3. Always wear a life jacket when boating, paddling, rafting, and inner tubing.
    A U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket is essential if you are on a small craft or open water. In recent years, several drownings may have been prevented if the victim had worn a life jacket. Don’t own a life jacket? Good news, you can borrow life jackets for free at Washington state life jacket loaner program locations all over King County.
  4. Don’t consume drugs or alcohol when in or near water.
    We are seeing an alarming increase in the number of drownings related to drug and alcohol use – a 20% increase from 2016 to 2017. If it’s not safe to do it while driving, it’s not safe to do it while swimming, boating, or near the water.
  5. Be extra cautious on the river.
    Rivers are very dangerous places to swim because of their cold, rushing waters, and unexpected obstructions and waterfalls. Because it is easy to get tossed around in the water and hit a hard object, swimmers are at risk of becoming temporarily numbed or paralyzed and losing the ability to swim well in already unpredictable waters. Your best bet is to avoid swimming in rivers altogether. If water recreation in a river is the only option, it’s important to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.

Originally posted on 7/27/18.