Warmer days are on the way, and many families will be headed to the lake to enjoy fresh air, sun and fun. Sadly, it’s also the time when many people die in open water.
Last year, 109 people drowned in the Great Lakes, with 56 of those drownings occurring in Lake Michigan. While pool safety is more frequently discussed, most drownings occur in lakes, rivers, ponds and other open water. Young children are three times more likely to drown in open water, and teens are eight times more likely to die in open water drownings.
The following tips will help you stay safe in and around water this summer.
Keep Kids Safe in and Around Water
- Constant Supervision. Watch kids when they are in or around water. Ensure that you are not distracted. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.
- Make sure children learn how to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Consider their age, development, and how often they are around water when deciding if they are ready.
- Make sure kids learn these five water survival skills and can independently:
- Step or jump into water over their head and return to the surface;
- Turn around and orient to safety;
- Float or tread water;
- Combine breathing with forward movement in the water, and
- Exit the water.
- Teach children that swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. Be aware of unique situations in open water, such as limited visibility, depth, uneven surfaces and currents. These potential hazards can make swimming in open water more challenging than swimming in a pool.
- Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating or participating in other recreational activities in or around water. Be sure to select a life jacket appropriate for age, weight and the water activity. Some communities, including Muskegon, offer life jacket loaner programs at public beaches and marinas.
- Use designated swimming areas whenever possible. Professionals have assessed the area, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules.
Know the Hidden Hazards
Swimming in lakes, rivers, ponds and other open water poses hazards you won’t find in a swimming pool. Staying aware of such risks as uneven surfaces, dangerous currents, cold temperatures and more will keep you and your family enjoying beach days safely.
You can learn more about water safety at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium.