Northwest NEWS

June 10, 2002


Guest Editorial: Water safety tips to live by

from the American Red Cross
   It's almost summertime in the Pacific Northwest. As the weather warms up, many people will be heading to the beach or pool. In an effort to save lives, the American Red Cross is strongly urging you to be prepared in, on and around the water.
   Drowning is the second leading cause of death from unintential injuries for youth ages 5 to 24 and the fourth leading cause of death from unintentional injuries for all ages.
   Following these simple water-related safety tips may help reduce the number of drownings and injuries that may occur throughout the summer.
   Call your local pool for information about swimming classes. For First Aid and CPR classes in King County, please call (206) 726-3534 or check out our web site at In Kitsap and north Mason counties please call the West Sound Service Center at (360) 377-3761 or go on-line to
   Swimming Safely
   Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is learning to swim. Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.
   Swim in supervised areas only.
   Obey all rules and posted signs.
   Watch out for the "dangerous too's" - too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much, too much strenuous activity.
   Don't mix alcohol and swimming. Alcohol impairs your judgement, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
   Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
   Know how to prevent, recognize and respond to emergencies.
   Beach Safety
   Protect you skin: Sunlight contains 2 kinds of UV rays - UVA increases the risk of skin cancer, skin aging and other skin diseases. UVB causes sunburn and can lead to skin cancer. Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of (SPF) of 15 or higher.
   Drink plenty of water regularly and often even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.
   Watch for signs of heat stroke: Heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
   Heat stroke signals include hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Call 911 and move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body by wrapping wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice or cold packs, place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.
   Wear eye protection: Sunglasses are like sunscreen for your eyes and protect against damage from UV rays. Be sure to wear sunglasses that absorbe at least 90 percent of UV sunlight.
   Wear foot protection: Many times, people's feet can get burned from sand or cut from glass in the sand.
   Water Safety for Children
   Maintain constant supervision. Watch children around any water environment (pool, stream, lake, tub, toilet - even a bucket of water) no matter what skills your child has acquired and no matter how shallow the water.
   Don't rely on substitutes. The use of floatation devices and inflatable toys cannot replace parental supervision. Such devices could suddenly shift position, lose air, or sjip out from underneath, leaving the child in a dangerous situation.
   Enroll in a water safety course or Learn To Swim program. Your decision to provide your child with an early aquatic experience is a gift that will have infinite rewards. These courses encourage safe practices.
   Parents should take a CPR course. Knowing these skills can be important around the water and you will expand your capabilities in providing care for your child. Contact your local Red Cross to enroll in a CPR class for Infants and Child course.
   Hotel Pool Safety Tips
   Know if the pool is guarded by a trained lifeguard whose sole responsibility is to guard the pool. The person that appears to be a lifeguard might be a towel attendant or a drink server.
   Never leave a child unsupervised around the pool.
   Know the layout of the pool, including which areas are deep, which are shallow, and where the entry and exit points are.
   Know and follow posted pool rules - and make certain everyone in the family knows and follows them.
   Set pools rules for your own family based on your children's abilities (such as, non-swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep).
   Learn basic water safety, First Aid and CPR.
   The American Red Cross is a non-profit, humanitarian agency dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The American Red Cross trains more than 11.7 million people each year in vital lifesaving skills such as First Aid and CPR. For more information, visit