The Ultimate Water Safety Guide

Water safety guide

Last Updated on September 16, 2020

Water-based activities, such as swimming and surfing, are some of the most popular activities that both adults and kids alike engage in during the summer. After all, nothing beats cooling down yourself by taking a swim in a pool or beach during a hot summer day.

Not only are these activities fun, but water-based activities like sailing and swimming also keep the entire family active during the summer months.

However, when engaging in such activities, it’s important to take note of water safety protocols. This way, everybody can be safe and risks of drowning and other untoward incidents from happening can be prevented.

This ultimate water safety guide will present you with important information to keep you safe whenever you choose any form of recreation that involves the pool or any natural body of water. From safety devices to helpful tips, this guide will show you how to have a good time without compromising your safety when engaging in water-based activities.

Contents

The Importance of Water Safety and Drowning Prevention

Why do you think is it important to be properly educated about water safety and drowning prevention? What do these concepts mean and why should you bother?

In this section, we’ll take a look at some facts about drowning. We will also focus on the importance of why water safety and drowning prevention are important, especially for small children and weak swimmers.

Cliff jump - safety in water

Some Facts about Water Safety and Drowning

According to the National Safety Council, the average daily occurrence of drowning in the United States is around 10 people per day. The World Health Organization or WHO states that about 320,000 drownings occur annually worldwide

Official reports also show that drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury and death around the world. It accounts for an estimated 7% of all injury-related deaths worldwide.

In the US, studies have shown that people who die from drowning belong to the most economically active segment of the population. Coastal drownings alone cost around $273 million every year for both direct and indirect expenses.

However, accidental drownings can happen anywhere at any time – not just at the beach. It can happen in your home’s pool or indoor jacuzzi, in rivers, streams, and lakes. It can even occur in your bathtub. That grueling moment takes only a few seconds complete.

You shouldn’t be part of the statistic and the best way to safeguard your safety and that of your loved ones begins by raising your awareness.

Emphasis on Water Safety

Given the high incidence of drowning in the US and elsewhere in the world, local and international organizations are encouraging everyone, adults and children alike, to practice water safety and drowning prevention. It is a key first step to guarantee your utmost safety whenever you elect to engage in water-based activities or simply hang out near a body of water.

The most basic safety protocol you can practice is to make sure that you are wearing the proper gear and carrying the appropriate safety devices, most especially those that help you stay afloat as well as prevent you from getting lost. You should also learn survival swimming, most especially if you frequent open seas, as well as obtain proper instruction for the type of water activity you are planning to engage in. For instance, you should take diving lessons and get certified before actually taking a dive in the vast ocean.

What is Water Safety: A Definition

We now know it’s important but what exactly is water safety?

Water safety is defined as the precautions, procedures, and policies implemented to promote and maintain one’s safety in, on, and near bodies of water. This is because whenever there is a body of water, there is a chance that injury or drowning may occur.

Some of the dangers presented by bodies of water are:

  • Hidden underwater currents that can sweep you away
  • The water can be deeper than how it looks
  • Colder temperatures can affect your reflexes and swimming abilities
  • Underwater debris and other injury-causing hazards may be present
  • Lifeguards may be off-duty
  • Remote areas can be harder to reach by rescue operations

Lifeguard on duty

These procedures are helpful for drowning prevention and it may include boating safety practices as well. These policies, procedures, and precautions are to be practiced whenever one engages in water-based activities or go anywhere near a body of water.

Water safety for kids and weak swimmers are especially important but everyone should practice these protocols as anyone can suffer from an accidental drowning and other related injuries.

Keeping Yourself and Others Safe in the Water

Now that we have established what water safety is and why it’s important, next in this water safety guide is about keeping yourself safe while in the water.

So, what can we do to keep ourselves – and others – safe while in the water? This water safety guide will provide you with some of the basic precautions you and your loved ones must practice if you want to enjoy your water-based activities while staying worry-free.

Swimming Lessons are a Must

Swimming isn’t just a fun activity that you and your loved ones can do during the summer. It is a life-saving skill that’s necessary to stay safe in the water.

Learning how to swim is one of the best methods of drowning prevention. A study found that children between 1 and 4 years old who know how to swim reduced their risk of drowning by as much as 88%. This is the most compelling reason why kids should learn how to swim as early as possible.

Swimming lessons

Being able to swim means you can enter and exit the water safely as well as have the necessary skills to survive in case you encounter problems while in the water. Knowing how to swim means you know how to:

  • Float or tread water for a minimum of 1 minute
  • Enter bodies of water that reaches over your head and be able to return to the surface with no problems
  • Swim at least 25 yards or 23 meters
  • Turn over and around while in the water
  • Enter and exit the water safely

Learning how to swim is a valuable skill that won’t just potentially save your life but can have several benefits for your overall health as well. Moreover, it’s a fun activity that you and your loved ones can engage in during the summer – all while keeping everyone safe from harm.

Use Personal Flotation Devices

Apart from learning how to swim, another way you can practice water safety and drowning prevention while in or on the water is by using personal flotation devices or PFDs. As their name suggests, these devices can help keep you afloat in case you unexpectedly enter the water.

As such, wearing one is also part of boating safety protocols as they keep you afloat in case you go overboard. PFDs are classified into five types, detailed in the next section.

Types of Personal Flotation Devices

To learn more about personal flotation devices, we have highlighted the five different types below as well as where they are commonly used.

Type 1

Type 1 PFDs are considered the most versatile type as they can be used for different bodies of waters such as the open ocean, remote waters, or rough seas. These consist of off-shore life jackets and are used as life jackets for commercial vessels. They have a minimum buoyancy of 22 lbs.

Type 2

These are typically used for milder waters and general boating activities, as well as areas wherein rescue operations can easily reach. They have a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 lbs and consist of near-shore buoyant vests.

Type 3

Similar to type 2 devices, type 3 PFDs are designed for general use or specialized activities that’s indicated on the device. They are also best used for calmer waters and areas where rescue can easily arrive on time. These flotation aids have a buoyancy of 15.5 lbs.

Type 4

Composed of throwable devices such as ring buoys, boat seat cushions, and horseshoe buoys, type 4 PFDs are designed for rescue operations wherein they are thrown towards a person or persons in an emergency.

They’re not meant to be used on their own and should be used in tandem with a wearable device such as a life jacket. They have a buoyancy of 16.5 lbs and these, along with wearable devices, should always be available in case of an emergency.

Type 5

These are devices designed for special purposes and are usually labeled with the activity they are meant for. Included in this type are hybrid inflatable devices. They often have a buoyancy range between 22 and 34 lbs.

Girl jumping in water

Choosing a Wearable Personal Flotation Device

When it comes to choosing the right PFDs for your needs, there are several factors you need to consider, especially when choosing a wearable PFD such as life jackets. Knowing which one suits you and your purpose could save your life when something unintentional or unexpected indeed happens while you’re in, on, or near the water.

Standard vs Inflatable vs Hybrid

Standard PFDs are the most common version of PFDs available and these are what most recreational water sport enthusiasts wear. They are versatile and offer low-maintenance as well as pockets wherein you can store vital tools for survival. However, they can be bulky and hot when worn.

Meanwhile, inflatable PFDs tend to be more comfortable and cooler than standard ones but they are more high-maintenance than the former. Moreover, their use is limited as they cannot be used for rougher activities like river rafting or whitewater kayaking due to their inflatable nature.

Hybrid PFDs offer the best of both worlds but they tend to cost a lot more than standard or inflatable PFDs.

Fitting and Size

When choosing a personal flotation device, two of the most vital factors to consider are the fit and size of it, especially for wearable devices. For adults, the size of your chest will determine the size of your PFD while for kids, their weight will be the basis.

A properly sized PFD should be secure enough and fit you like a glove without restricting your movements while engaging in your water-based activity.

To ensure that your PFD will fit during your water-based activities such as kayaking and rafting, it’s best that you wear the right clothes and gear prescribed for the water activity you want to engage in.

For kids, their weight will be the basis of the PFD for them. They are as follows:

  • Infants: 8 to 30 lbs
  • Children: 30 to 50 lbs
  • Youth (Older Children and Adolescents): 50 to 90 lbs

Having the right personal flotation device, whether it’s a wearable type or a throwable one, can have a large impact on the outcome of an emergency and can be the difference between drowning and safety.

Learn How to Help Others

Another way you can practice water safety is by learning how to help others as well. By doing so, you are ensuring that everyone involved will be safe while engaging in their respective water-based activities.

Some of the things you can do are:

  • Stay with weak swimmers and children at all times.
  • Learn how to administer first aid such as CPR, especially if swimming with children.
  • Learn and recognize the signs of someone drowning.
  • Learn how to properly extend help without putting yourself in danger as well.
  • Don’t leave a drowning person behind.
  • Call emergency services as soon as possible.

Learning how to help others won’t just help save someone’s life but it can also help you become adequately prepared for what you should do in case of an emergency while in the water.

Practicing Water Safety in Different Areas

We have established some of the most important practices when it comes to water safety but different areas entail different practices as the terrain and overall environment are different.

In this section of our comprehensive water safety guide, we’ll be highlighting some of the most common areas where water-based activities take place such as swimming pools, bathtubs, lakes, beaches, etc.

Moreover, we’ll be detailing what are the things you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the dangers of drowning and other related injuries.

At Home

Home is where you’re most comfortable and the idea of home is often associated with security and safety.

However, drowning, one of the leading causes of death around the world,  as well as other water-related injuries can also happen at home. This is particularly true for younger children, especially children who are a year old and below. It can happen in your home pool, hot tub, or even your regular bathtub.

With that said, how can you practice water safety and drowning prevention even at home?

Child in bathtub

Home Water Safety for Kids

With their tendency to be fascinated with water, kids are at most risk of suffering from a water-related mishap while at home. And as parents and caretakers, we bear the responsibility to look after our children and ensure they are as safe and secure as possible while at home.

With that said, here are some helpful tips to practice at home as water safety for kids.

Always keep your bathroom door closed.

Drowning as well as other water-related injuries can happen in an instant and when you least expect it too. Injuries such as slipping, falling, and more can happen in your own bathroom, especially with kids who tend to be less careful.

As such, to ensure that your children, especially toddlers, don’t enter the bathroom unsupervised and result in injuries or fatalities, it’s recommended to always keep your bathroom doors closed.

If they are able to reach the doorknobs or handles, then perhaps you can install a safety latch or cover on the outside of the bathroom door. This will make it more difficult for them to open it, keeping them safe from water-related accidents.

Always keep toilet lids shut.

It may be an irrational fear for some but toilet-related accidents do happen, especially for small kids like toddlers. Keeping your toilet lid shut whenever there’s a child present can prevent unfortunate accidents from happening.

Aside from the possibility of them falling upside down in the bowl, there’s also the issue of harmful germs and bacteria present in your toilet bowl. After all, it’s where your bodily wastes are eliminated. Therefore, you don’t want your child playing with the water, especially since kids tend to be fascinated with water.

If it’s difficult to keep it shut, consider using a childproof toilet lock to make it more difficult for your small child to open the lid. This can prevent some unfortunate toilet-related mishaps from happening and helps keep your children safe.

Always supervise them while inside the bathroom.

Again, drowning can happen almost instantaneously which is why it’s important to always supervise your children while in the bathroom, especially during bath time. This is particularly important if they’re taking their bath in a bathtub.

Even when taking a shower, it’s important that you’re there to supervise as the slippery floors can cause them to slip and fall, hurting themselves or hitting their heads.

Aside from supervising them while in the bathroom, make sure to always drain the tub after every use to prevent accidents from happening while you’re preoccupied. Also, consider putting non-slip mats on your bathroom floors to keep your child, as well as everyone else, safe from injuries due to slips and falls.

Store buckets immediately after use.

Buckets are handy for various uses such as mopping floors and cleaning your home. However, they can present a water-related hazard if not emptied and stored immediately after every use.

Buckets and containers can accumulate water, especially when left outside, and this can lead to water-related injuries and accidents for your child. That is why it’s important that you store them properly after each use.

Home Water Safety for Adults

Although adults are less likely to suffer from drowning at home, there are still some tips you and other adults in your household can follow to ensure your safety while enjoying the water.

Avoid drinking alcohol and taking certain medications before entering the water.

Taking alcohol and certain medications can increase the risk of adults drowning or experiencing water-related injuries. This is because alcohol and certain medications cause drowsiness and can slow down your reflexes.

This is even more important if you’re to use a bathtub or hot tub as these substances can cause you to fall asleep while soaking in the tub. Moreover, alcohol lowers your body’s resistance to overheating, making you fail to recognize if you’re already suffering from it while in a hot tub.

Practice safety precautions with hot tubs.

Hot tubs offer plenty of health benefits, particularly when it comes to alleviating pain. However, helpful as they may be for one’s health, they can also pose risks when improperly used. As such, there are a few things you can do to enjoy your hot tub with no problems:

    • Properly install the outlets and put some screens over them to avoid being sucked and trapped.
    • Learn where the switch to shut the tub off is.
    • Avoid placing your head beneath the water.
    • Properly install handrails to have something to hold onto in case of slips.
    • Enter the tub feet first.
    • Pregnant women should avoid using hot tubs for the duration of their pregnancy.
    • Recognize the signs of overheating and have a clock visible to you at all times.
    • Do not exceed the recommended number of bathers at a time.

At the Pool

The pool is one of the most popular areas for water-related activities, especially in the hot summer months when school is out for the summer.

Whether it’s a residential pool or your local community’s swimming pool, it’s important to practice water safety protocols so that you and your loved ones can keep yourselves safe and make the most out of the experience.

Baby in swimming pool

Residential Pools

For those who have pools at home, protocols for practicing water safety can be different from those practiced at your local community pool. In this part of our water safety guide, we will be discussing what should you do to keep safe while enjoying your pool at home.

Install a fence or other types of barriers that are at least 4-feet tall around your pool area.

When it comes to providing safety, nothing beats a good old fence installed around the perimeter of your swimming pool. Installing a fence that is at least 4 feet tall can help prevent accidents as well as serve as a good way of drowning prevention.

This can help deter your children from diving into the pool without supervision and a locked fence can be helpful at deterring the neighborhood kids from entering your pool without permission or supervision.

It can also keep your pets and wild animals from taking a sip and accidentally falling into the water.

However, this fence should block the view from your home as this can prevent you from supervising your child.

Always retrieve pool toys from the water.

Toys can be a wonderful addition when swimming with your child but always make sure that you retrieve them all after each use. This is because your child or children may be tempted to retrieve the toys themselves and accidentally fall into the water when you’re not looking.

Aside from that, always make sure to keep the walkways clear from toys and other items that can cause tripping or slipping. Getting a suncast deck box to set by the pool will help you stay organized outdoors.

Keep away from drains.

The suction from the pool’s drainage system can entrap you as well as your children, holding you underwater, resulting in drowning. To avoid this, you can install specially designed covers and vacuum-release systems that can help prevent entrapment by the drains.

Keep a phone nearby in case of an emergency.

Whether it’s a mobile phone or a wireless house phone, make sure to keep one nearby at all times so you can call emergency services in case someone needs it. This will prevent you from having to go inside to retrieve a phone and risk their safety.

Never swim alone, especially children.

Drowning can happen instantaneously which is why it’s best to always have someone with you when using the pool. This is an especially important precaution with children as they are more likely to get trapped underwater and drown.

Community Pools

Next on our ultimate water safety guide are some tips on what you should do as safety precautions if you don’t have a pool at home but enjoy the local community pool.

Always ensure that there is a lifeguard around before you swim.

Lifeguards are trained specifically to deal with water-related emergencies such as accidental drowning and administering first aid. Because of this, it’s vital that a lifeguard is always present whenever you indulge in your favorite water-based activities while at the community pool.

Avoid running, shoving, and horseplay near or around the pool area.

Going to the local pool with your friends can be fun and there can be a tendency to playfully shove each other while you’re having fun. However, this can lead to accidents such as accidentally falling into the pool, slipping, and falling.

This can lead to injuries for you, your friends, and even bystanders. It can even cause accidental drowning for those who don’t know how to swim.

With that said, it’s best and part of most communities’ policies to avoid running, playful shoving and pushing, and other types of horseplay around the pool area.

Don’t overdo it and learn to know your limits.

When enjoying the water with friends or family, one thing can lead to another and your loved ones may end up challenging you to go to the deeper areas of the pool.

However, even if you are a strong swimmer, it’s best to avoid the deeper areas of the pool where you can no longer touch the bottom. This is because unexpected things may happen and this can result in accidental drownings.

If you’re a beginner swimmer or someone else is, it’s best to learn your limits and take a break when needed. Even if you’re a veteran swimmer, it’s best to take a break once in a while to avoid leg cramps and other mishaps that can lead to accidental drowning.

At the Beach and Other Natural Bodies of Water

Kayaking

For those who like adventure, summer getaways often include going to the beach, whether it’s the local one or an international destination. The ocean and other natural bodies of water open many more opportunities for water-based activities compared to a swimming pool but the hazards and risks they pose differ as well.

Next in our water safety guide are tips on keeping safe while enjoying your favorite water-based activities at the beach, lake, or river. This section includes some boating safety tips as well.

General Tips

Always let someone know whenever you’re entering the water.

Since the ocean and other natural bodies of water can be more unpredictable than swimming pools, it’s advised that you always let someone know that you’re going to the beach to swim or engage in other water-based activities.

Moreover, make sure to use the buddy system and have someone always looking out for you in case of an emergency.

In addition, just like at the community pool, make sure that a lifeguard is always present whenever you and your buddies enter the water so they are aware that someone is swimming and can take the appropriate action in case they no longer spot you or when you call for help.

Do not swim after anything in the open water.

In case an item of yours floats away, such as a beach ball or floater, it’s best that you let them float away as the water can become very deep quickly. Underestimating the depth of the water and overestimating your swimming abilities can result in unfortunate circumstances such as accidental drowning which can quickly become fatal.

Watch out for marine creatures such as jellyfish.

Jellyfish may be pretty to look at but their stings can cause irritation, severe allergic reactions, and sometimes even death. As such, before you go to the beach, it’s best to research whether jellyfish are common in the area as well as other underwater creatures that can be deadly.

If you or your kids spot a jellyfish, immediately get out of the water and alert the lifeguard of its presence as there may be more lurking in the water and can be difficult to spot.

Research the area before going.

Aside from searching if deadly underwater creatures are common to the area, it’s also best to research what the location would actually be like. There are plenty of local water safety guides that can give you valuable information about things like currents, rip tides, sinking sand, and more.

Boating Safety Tips

One of the most popular water-based activities, boating can be an activity that everyone in the family can enjoy. Whether it’s at the ocean or a lake, there are plenty of things you can do while on a boat.

However, a family trip on a boat can quickly turn into something unexpected and tragic if you don’t follow the proper boating safety precautions. With that said, next on this water safety guide are some tips on how to keep safe while enjoying your boating activities.

Sailing

Always check the weather forecast and water conditions beforehand.

Before you and your family or buddies leave the shore, make sure to consult the local weather report for the forecast as well as check out the water conditions. Warm and sunny days are more ideal for boating and other related activities but storms can be unpredictable which is why checking the local weather forecast is a good idea.

Moreover, unexpected weather conditions like storms and freezing temperatures can end up leaving you stranded out in the water where rescue operations will have difficulty reaching.

Always wear proper life jackets.

Wearing a personal flotation device such as life jackets should be part of your boating safety protocols as they do more than just keep you afloat. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are designed to help you keep yourself face up even while unconscious and prevent you from succumbing to hypothermia.

Moreover, many states in the US require passengers, especially children, to wear a life jacket at all times.

Don’t go beyond the boat’s recommended capacity.

To avoid tipping the boat over, you should always stick to your boat’s recommended weight capacity and avoid overloading it with more passengers or equipment.

Keep a boating safety kit on board at all times.

An emergency is often unexpected which is why it’s recommended that you prepare for one and keep a safety kit on board at all times. Some of the items your kit should include are:

  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Rope
  • Whistle
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Extra life jackets
  • Visual distress devices such as red flares, lights, and distress flags
  • A mirror
  • Buckets

Keeping a boating safety kit onboard can help you survive until rescue services can get to you and can be the difference between your survival and drowning

Final Thoughts

Water-based activities are perfect for those who like a little adventure to their recreational activities. Moreover, they are something the whole family can take part in, whether it’s swimming at home, at the local pool, or a getaway at an out-of-town location.

However, whenever you’re partaking in these activities, it’s vital that you practice water safety protocols as these won’t just keep you safe while enjoying your favorite activities in the water, but they can also be the difference between life and death.

Hopefully, with this ultimate water safety guide, you were able to learn more about what to do and what not to do while in the water.

After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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