Water Safety Day – by Sarah Barnett

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It’s that great time of year again! The temperature warms up and people naturally gravitate towards water! However, with increased participation in aquatic recreation comes an increased risk of drowning or injury. Learning how to swim is only part of the equation to reducing your risk around water. The following are some additional ways to avoid drowning or injury.

Always swim with a buddy. You increase your risk of drowning when you swim alone. Find a friend or a family member to swim with you, even at a guarded facility. If your child is going to a pool party or swimming during a summer camp, help them designate a swim buddy to keep them both safe. Teach your kids to never go swimming without an adult present to watch them.

Know what you are jumping into. Before you jump or dive into any body of water, make sure you can see the bottom or know how deep the water is. If you can’t see the bottom of a swimming pool, it is NOT safe for you to swim in! All pools have main drains located in the deepest part of the pool. If you can’t see them, chances are there is something wrong with the pool, causing the water clarity issue. With lakes and oceans, make sure you know how deep the water is before going in. Walk out to the area where you plan to jump to ensure that it is deep enough for the jump. Jumping or diving into shallow water can lead to serious injury!

Wear a lifejacket. If your children do not have strong swimming skills, put on a lifejacket or puddle jumper. You can never be too careful around the water with children. If you are around water at a social gathering, it’s critical that weak or non-swimmers have on a coast guard approved lifejacket. Even if you plan to watch your children at all times, looking away for even a minute to talk to a friend or put food on your plate can lead to a drowning. Lifejackets, however, should NOT be used as babysitters for your children in the water. Parents should still keep a close eye on their children!

When boating, tubing, or jet skiing, ALL PASSENGERS should wear a lifejacket. Even the best swimmer will drown if they fall off a boat far enough.  About a year ago, my husband, who is a former lifeguard and lifeguard instructor, was saved from drowning by wearing a lifejacket on a boat.  He and his friend were tubing and he fell off. He fell off with such force that he broke four ribs, bruised and collapsed his lung, and had several damaged internal organs. The lifejacket saved his life and potentially kept him from damaging any more organs. If he was arrogant and thought he would not need a lifejacket because he was a good swimmer, he would not be alive today.

Know the rules. The rules are written for only one reason: your safety. If a rule seems absurd, it’s probably because somebody found out the hard way that the rule was needed. Trying to break a rule without a lifeguard seeing is a risky game, you should not try to hide from those that are there for your safety!

Throw, don’t go. If you find that someone is struggling in deep water, DO NOT jump in after them. They may accidentally pull you under with them. Instead, try to reach out to them with an object they can grab onto while you pull them to safety. Boats should be equipped with a ring buoy with a long rope that you throw out to the person and pull them to safety. A ring buoy, pool furniture, broom handles, or pool poles can easily be used in a pinch to grab someone from a deep pool. However, you can also make your own safety throw line by filling a milk carton half way with dirt, sand, or rocks, and attaching a long rope to it.

Put phones and distractions away. If your children are near water, it doesn’t matter how many levels of swim lessons they have completed – they need to be watched at all times.  It takes less than a minute for children to drown. It’s easy to get distracted by YouTube videos or social media scrolling that you lose track of when you last checked on your children. I’m the last person to phone shame anyone (I love my phone), but if there is one time that I’m device-free, it’s when my kids are near water!

With 70% of the earth’s surface made up of water, it’s important that EVERYONE has some understanding of how to safely enjoy the water!

Signal Bay Waterpark will be opening for its 23rd season on Saturday May 25th! Join us for out soft opening on Friday, May 24th from 4:30pm-7:30pm!

Sarah Barnett is the Operations/Aquatics Supervisor for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. She can be reached at 703.335.8872 x1482 or via email at s.barnett@manassasparkva.gov.

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