Beach safety

Thousands of families will be heading to the beach this summer for some sun, sand and surf, but a day of family fun can turn into a tragedy in the blink of an eye.  Follow these beach safety tips to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Choose a beach where there are Lifeguards on duty.  These people are trained to spot dangerous situations and handle them when they occur.  Having said that, they are not babysitters…parents should always be responsible for their children’s safety.

Supervise your children at all times.  I imagine that you would rather be sunbathing or reading a good book, but water conditions on large bodies of water can change so quickly and you can’t afford to be lulled into a false sense of security.  If your children are young and/or beginner swimmers, they should wear life jackets and be within an arms-length from an adult at all times.  Also, remember that inflatable toys and noodles are not reliable safety equipment and should not be counted on to keep your children safe (they are not attached to your child and can easily float away).   Even if your children are more experienced swimmers, choose a spot to sit that is close to where they are playing in the water and watch them closely.

Observe any signs re water quality and safety.  Before you go in the water, read any posted information with respect to water quality and/or known dangers.  Also, if there is a Lifeguard on duty, talk to them to get specifics (known rip currents, undertows, etc.).

Teach your children about the different kinds of water dangers and what to do to protect themselves.   Knowing what to look for and what to do if you find yourself in a dangerous situation, are truly “life skills”.  The three most common dangers are as follows…

Undertow – “a current in the sea or ocean that is below the surface and that moves away from the shore” (Merriam-Webster.com).  An undertow may pull swimmers under the water for a short distance (to the next breaking wave), but does not pull them offshore into deeper water.  This type of current is the most dangerous to small children who are too small to fight against the pull.

Rip Tide – a strong current caused by tidal flow in confined areas such as inlets.  Many use this term and the term ‘rip current’ interchangeably, but they are actually different phenomena.  The powerful, reversing current that can be found in inlets, makes them a very dangerous place for even swimmers of advanced skill levels.

Rip Current – a relatively strong, narrow current flowing outward from the beach through the surf zone.  Check out the below video to learn more about rip currents and how to escape them.

Watch ‘How to Escape Rip Currents’ by Ocean City Surf Report, on YouTube.

Before you head to the beach this summer, take a bit of time to prepare yourself and your family – after all, better to be safe than sorry!  Now, let’s hit the beach!

If you feel that it is important that your children have basic water skills, you may also want to check out my post on Water Safety.

Water safety programs

Thousands of deaths each year are attributable to unintentional drownings and many of the victims are children.  That’s why, countries such as the United States and Canada are starting to take this issue seriously and implementing water safety programs as part of their school curriculum.

In Ontario, Canada, the provincial government offers a grant to schools who give their students “Swim to Survive” training.  This water safety program was developed by the Lifesaving Society and is offered to Grade 3 students.  Kids are taught the “minimum skills needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water”.

My daughter just went through this program.  The kids were taken to the local Y, where they participated in two sessions of one and a half hours each.  In addition, prior to the program, my daughter’s teacher spent some time in the classroom, talking about various aspects of water safety (e.g. always wear a life jacket while in a boat).

Watch this brief video by the Lifesaving Society, talking about the three skills children need to learn as a first step to water safety.

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Another program, this one offered in northern Michigan, is aimed at teaching water safety skills to high-school students.  Surrounded by large bodies of water, this community felt that teaching water smarts was almost as important as teaching safe driving skills, so they decided to do something about it.  Check out this brief video for further details.

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Water activities can be a lot of fun, but they can also be life-threatening if your children don’t have the skills they need to keep themselves safe.  Please sign your children up for swimming lessons this summer and encourage your school boards to implement programs like the ones in the above videos!  Let’s all do whatever we can to keep our kids safe!

For more tips on how to keep your children safe in and around water this summer, check out my post on Water Safety.

Water safety

It’s that time of year again!  The weather is getting warmer and people are starting to get their pools ready for the summer.  The local beaches are also preparing for the summer crowds (however, after the long winter, it might be a while before the water warms up enough for swimming).

Thousands of children die every year in pool or open water drownings and boating accidents.  I am a big proponent of swimming lessons for children, but I know that this is not always possible.  Having said that, before you allow your children near a body of water any deeper than a bathtub, they should learn some basic water safety rules.

This YouTube video is a good place to start because it stars some characters that most kids will recognize (Minions from the Despicable Me movies).  Watch it together and then you can talk about it afterwards.

Click here to watch the video on YouTube

This video is only the beginning…teaching your children water safety skills is truly a matter of life and death!

If keeping your children safe is a priority for you, check out my post entitled “YouTube Safety“.