Safety is No. 1 priority as summertime brings water activities for families
Submitted by the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection
For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is reminding New Yorkers of the importance of water safety.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer when many families head to swimming pools, beaches and lakes to enjoy the warmer weather. It is critical to follow proper safety protocol near any body of water to prevent accidents.
“As the summer heat arrives, families all across the state will be looking for fun ways to stay cool, and that often means heading to the pool or beach,” New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said. “I urge all New Yorkers to follow these simple safety tips and always supervise children in and around all bodies of water to help keep the summertime safe and fun for all.”
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “Our mission at State Parks is to provide safe and enjoyable recreation. On our waterways, know your limitations, wear life jackets, take boater education courses and please refrain from alcohol and drug impairment. We entrust lifeguards, park rangers and Park Police all around our pools, streams, lakes and beaches. This summer, both in and out of the water, we hope everyone can safely enjoy our beautiful parks.”
Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “Summer is a time for fun in the sun and in the water, but accidents can happen in an instant without the proper safety precautions. With warmer weather approaching, we strongly encourage New York’s families to review water safety with their children and ensure they’re supervised around water at all times.”
Safety Tips for All Bodies of Water
√ Adult supervision: This is the No. 1 way to prevent drowning. Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate a “Water Watcher.” This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone, drinking alcoholic beverages or otherwise distracted.
√ Choose bright colors: Studies show the color of one’s bathing suit can make a difference in visibility. Consider the color of your child’s swimsuit before heading to a pool, beach or lake. For light-bottomed pools, neon pink and neon orange tend to be the most visible. For lakes and dark-bottomed pools, neon orange, neon green and neon yellow tend to be the most visible.
√ Identify swimmers in need of help: While we tend to think that swimmers in trouble will be waving their hands and making lots of noise, this may not always be the case. Watch out for people whose heads are low in the water (mouth submerged) or tilted back with mouth open, eyes closed or unable to focus, legs vertical in the water or who are trying to swim but not making progress.
√ Swimming lessons: Multiple studies show swimming lessons prevent drowning. Parents are encouraged to enroll their children in swimming lessons, as the most basic swimming skills can help keep a child safe in the water. In addition, recent data from the US Swimming Foundation shows that children in some communities continue to have no or disproportionally low swimming ability. Many municipal pools and community centers offer free or low-cost swimming lessons, and everyone is encouraged to learn how to swim.
√ Learn CPR: Every second counts, and CPR can help in an emergency.
Open Water Safety
√ Wear life jackets: Put life jackets on kids anytime they are on a boat or participating in other open water recreational activities. Personal flotation devices should always be used for children who do not know how to swim. New York state law requires that children under 12 wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest on a boat or water vessel. For more information on proper life jackets, go to the U.S. Coast Guard site.
√ Choose a spot on the beach close to a lifeguard: Swim only when a lifeguard is on duty.
√ Watch for warning flags and know what they mean: Green flags usually mark designated swimming areas – be sure to swim between the green flags. Yellow flags may denote a surfing beach or an advisory. Red flags indicate a danger or hazard, and no one should swim when they are shown. Flag designations may vary, so be sure to understand the color coding before you dive in.
√ Watch out for rip currents: Rip currents are powerful currents moving away from shore. They tend to form near a shallow point in the water, such as a sandbar, or close to jetties and piers, and can happen at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes. They are the No. 1 hazard for beachgoers and can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. If you are caught in a rip current, try to remain calm and don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, and float or tread water if you begin to tire. More from the National Weather Service: “Break the Grip of the Rip.”
√ Beware of large waves and strong surf: Ocean swimming is different from swimming in a calm pool or lake. Large waves can easily knock over an adult. Be prepared for strong surf as well as sudden drop-offs near the shore.
√ Put up barriers: Install appropriate safety barriers around in-home pools and spas. This includes fences, gates, door alarms and covers.
√ Pool alarms: Install a pool alarm to detect and provide notification of unattended pool access.
√ Small pools: Drain and put away smaller portable pools when not in use.
√ Cover drains: Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid them getting stuck. Children’s hair, limbs, jewelry or bathing suits can get stuck in a drain or suction opening. Also, ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards, which include drain shape, drain cover size and rate of water flow. Learn more here.
About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The consumer assistance helpline (1-800-697-1220) is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection. For other consumer protection tips and consumer alerts, consumers can follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to an email or phone here.