With Memorial Day just around the corner, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds area residents to practice safety when swimming and boating.
May is Water Safety Month in Michigan, and May 21-27 is Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week in Wisconsin.
To help ensure a safe boating and swimming season, area residents are reminded to follow some simple swimming safety tips.
- Learn how to swim. Participate in swim lessons and water-safety classes.
- Never leave children unattended near water.
- Always keep basic lifesaving equipment nearby, including life jackets and other certified personal flotation devices.
- Take a Boater's Safety Course.
- Check the weather before going on the water.
- Never boat alone.
- Inform friends and family of your where-abouts before you go on the water.
- Carry necessary boat equipment: a fire extinguisher, boat anchor, tow rope, flares, marine VHF radio and cell phone.
- Wear your life jacket. A life jacket will only work if it is on your body and fits properly. It is very difficult to put on your jacket while in the water. Put it on before you get into the boat.
"More than 90 percent of drownings in the United States are due to people not wearing life jackets," said Sgt. Al Bavarskas, the Marine Safety Specialist with the Michigan DNR's Law Enforcement Division. "In most of the drowning accidents, people have life jackets on their boats, they are just not wearing them."
In Michigan, anyone 6 years of age or younger must wear a life jacket when on the open deck of any vessel.
But wearing a personal flotation device is recommended for everyone.
"Using life jackets saves lives. It is our hope through this campaign that boaters will choose to wear life jackets throughout the year, not just during Water Safety Month," said Lt. Andrew Turner, boating law administrator for the DNR's Law Enforcement Division.
"Life jackets have redesigned in recent years so that they come in styles that are comfortable and easy to wear. Having a life jacket on prevents the search for one during a boating emergency."
Additionally, Wisconsin health officials are raising awareness about ways to ensure healthy, safe swimming to prevent recreational water illness and injury.
In the United States, thousands of people get sick each year with recreational water illnesses caused by germs found where they swim, and drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children age one to four.
Nationwide, two children under age 14 die from drowning each day.
In Wisconsin, there were 65 total drowning deaths among children and adults in 2010 alone. Others who have come close to drowning may face long-term impairments including memory problems, learning disabilities, permanent physical disabilities and paralysis.
"To make sure swimming is healthy and safe, it's critical to take precautions to prevent drowning, and to prevent the spread of germs that cause illness," said Dr. Henry Anderson, Wisconsin State Health Officer.
To help prevent recreational water illnesses:
- Don't swim when you have diarrhea. This can spread germs in the water and make others sick.
- Don't swallow pool or lake water. Avoid getting the water in your mouth.
- Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
- Make sure children who are not toilet-trained wear swim diapers.
- Parents of young children should wash their children before swimming, take kids to the bathroom every 30 to 60 minutes and check their diapers.
- Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
Precautions to prevent drowning:
- Make sure everyone in your family knows how to swim.
- Ensure that older children and adults know CPR.
- Use life jackets that fit younger or weaker swimmers.
- Provide continuous, attentive supervision close to the swimmers, even if there is a lifeguard.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs when swimming or watching swimmers.
- Check the depth of water before diving to prevent neck/head injuries.
- Prevent access to pools when not in use by installing and maintaining barriers and using locks or alarms for windows and doors. Pools should have four-sided fencing and weight-bearing covers.