Spring brings warmer weather and that means snow melts in the mountains of the West. That, in turn, means high runoff swelling rivers to their Spring-time high water marks. While lakes and rivers at all levels offer recreational opportunities, those opportunities also present dangers for water enthusiasts of all ages and ability levels. And high water levels translate to increased dangers.
Last month, 15 month old Mariana Stilson drowned while picnicking with her family along the Ogden River in Weber County. The family reported that they lost sight of her for approximately 5 minutes but once they noticed her missing, they immediately began searching for her in the water. Family members found her floating in the water and although CPR was begun immediately and she was taken to a local hospital by helicopter, she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
The tragedy experienced by the Stilson family highlights the need for constant diligence around water and the importance of periodically reviewing water safety tips. There are a number of good sources like the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross of Northern Utah offers the following safety information:
Nationally, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4, and the second leading cause for children 1 to 14. Additionally, a child can drown in as little as 2 inches of water, in as little time as 20 seconds.
To help you and your family avoid tragic accidents while in, on and around water, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers the following water safety tips to ensure a fun and safe summer:
Enroll in an American Red Cross certified water safety course or Learn-to-Swim class. One of the best things one can do to stay safe in and around the water is learn to swim. These courses encourage positive, safe practices. A Water Safety Handbook can be purchased on-line at our Red Cross Store.
Maintain constant supervision. Watch children around any water environment. For younger children, practice "reach supervision" by staying within an arm’s-length reach.
Wear the proper gear. Kids – and even adults – who are not strong swimmers should use U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) whenever they are in or around the water. Everyone, including strong swimmers, should use an approved PFD when boating. When used properly, this lightweight plastic equipment can help save lives.
Always keep basic lifesaving equipment by the residential pool and know how to use it. A first aid kit, cordless phone, phone list with emergency contact information, reaching pole and ring buoy with a line attached are recommended. In addition, the Red Cross recommends that pools be surrounded on all sides by a fence that is at least four feet high. Fences should not provide any footholds which can allow a child to climb over or through. Also, fences should have a self-closing, self-locking gate when the pool is not in use.
Swim in supervised areas only.
Obey "No Diving" signs.
Watch out for the "dangerous too’s." Take a break at the point of being too tired, too cold, too far from safety, or of too much sun, too little hydration, too much strenuous activity.
Don’t mix alcohol and swimming. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills and reduces your body’s ability to stay warm.
Pack a "safety" bag for a day at the beach or lake. Water-proof sunscreen with an SPF 15, or higher, water shoes to keep feet safe and plenty of water are musts. All containers should be plastic to prevent injuries from broken glass. Also, hats and sunglasses keep eyes safe from dangerous UV rays.
Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
Learn Red Cross first aid and CPR. While the above tips can help prevent emergencies, it is important to know what to do if a situation arises. All caregivers, including grandparents, older siblings and babysitters, should have lifesaving skills.
If your children’s eyes glaze over when you try to review a bullet point list with them, the Red Cross also offers a water safety video:
You can also find free water safety lesson on-line if in-person resources are not readily available:
The bottom line is that water can be dangerous, but there are ways to avoid injuries and deaths – please take a moment to review water safety tips with family and friends before heading to the pool, lake or river for fun.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.