1. Learn To Swim: Learning to swim is the best defense against drowning. Teach children to swim at an early age. Children who are not taught when they are very young tend to avoid swim instruction as they age, probably due to embarrassment. Swimming instruction is a crucial step to protecting children from injury or death.
2. Swim Near A Lifeguard: USLA statistics over a ten year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards. USLA has calculated the chance that a person will drown while attending a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards at 1 in 18 million (.0000055%).
3. Never Swim Alone: Many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help, including signaling for assistance from others. At least have someone onshore watching you.
4. Don’t Fight the Current: USLA has found that some 80% of rescues by USLA affiliated lifeguards at ocean beaches are caused by rip currents. These currents are formed by surf and gravity, because once surf pushes water up the slope of the beach, gravity pulls it back. This can create concentrated rivers of water moving offshore. Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there is no undercurrent, just an offshore current. If you are caught in a rip current, don’t fight it by trying to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax, then swim to shore. Most rip currents are narrow and a short swim parallel to shore will bring you to safety.
5. Swim Sober: Alcohol is a major factor in drowning. Alcohol can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability. Perhaps more importantly, both alcohol and drugs impair good judgment, which may cause people to take risks they would not otherwise take.
6. Leash Your Board: Surfboards and bodyboards should be used only with a leash. Leashes are usually attached to the board and the ankle or wrist. They are available in most shops where surfboards and bodyboards are sold or rented. With a leash, the user will not become separated from the flotation device. One additional consideration is a breakaway leash. A few drownings have been attributed to leashes becoming entangled in underwater obstructions. A breakaway leash avoids this problem.
7. Don’t Float Where You Can’t Swim: Nonswimmers often use flotation devices, like inflatable rafts, to go offshore. If they fall off, they can quickly drown. No one should use a flotation device unless they are able to swim. Use of a leash is not enough because a non-swimmer may panic and be unable to swim back to the flotation device, even with a leash. The only exception is a person wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket.
8. Life Jackets = Boating Safety: Some 80% of fatalities associated with boating accidents are from drowning. Most involve people who never expected to end up in the water, but fell overboard or ended up in the water when the boat sank. Children are particularly susceptible to this problem and in many states, children are required to be in lifejackets whenever they are aboard boats.
9. Don’t Dive Headfirst, Protect Your Neck: Serious, lifelong injuries, including paraplegia, occur every year due to diving headfirst into unknown water and striking the bottom. Bodysurfing can result in a serious neck injury when the swimmer’s neck strikes the bottom. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, then go in feet first the first time; and use caution while bodysurfing, always extending a hand ahead of you.
10. At Home, You’re the Lifeguard: Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in many states for children age one and two. A major reason for this is home pools, which can be death traps for toddlers. Many of these deaths occur in the few moments it takes a parent to answer a telephone or doorbell. NEVER leave a child alone anywhere near a pool. Make sure it is completely fenced, that the fence is locked, and that there is no access from the home to the pool. Don’t let your child or a neighbor’s child get into the pool when you’re not there.
This is a great article on drowning!
We agree that public agencies need to focus on saving money in these austere times, but some actions are so penny wise/pound foolish that they are downright indefensible. Closing state parks is one example that comes to mind.
We were glad to see, then, that the Pismo Beach City Council had the good sense to follow city staff’s advice by boosting the salary for an indispensable group of employees: lifeguards.
The council unanimously voted to raise the entrylevel pay for lifeguards by $2 per hour. Starting July 2, seasonal lifeguards will earn $13.20 per hour, rather than $11.19. Lead lifeguards will be paid $17.50 per hour.
The new salary schedule is more in line with what other South County agencies offer ocean lifeguards. At Oceano Dunes state park, starting pay is $14.91, and at Avila Beach, which is under the jurisdiction of Port San Luis Harbor District, lifeguards start at $13.07.
Pismo Beach had not reviewed its salary schedule for lifeguards since 2006, and interest in positions had been waning. Generally, the city gets 15 to 18 applications. This year, the city received only nine applications.
The pay raise will cost Pismo an additional $38,234 per year. That’s still a bargain, especially for acity like Pismo Beach that depends so heavily on tourism.
Without a crew of experienced, professional lifeguards, many families would think twice about letting their children anywhere near Pismo’s surf. And who knows? They might even decide to travel up the road to Avila Beach instead — quickly wiping out any paltry savings that would have been realized had Pismo decided to deny its lifeguards a decent rate of pay.