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Water and Boat Safety

July 15, 2019 | Dr. Nimitt Patel

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With temperatures now well above 80° with high humidity, plenty of us are probably looking for ways to cool down. Review these safety tips and always remain alert when near water. Although enjoying the water is a great summer activity, we want to make sure you are doing so safely.

Remember the Basics

Whether you plan on entering the water or not, there are certain precautions you should always take.

  • Never swim alone. Always make sure there is a lifeguard or other people in your group that can look out for each other.
  • Pay close attention to children or less-experienced swimmers. Designate someone to supervise the water and regularly do a head-count to make sure you can see everyone. This person should not be on their phone as it only takes moments for drowning to occur and it often happens silently.
  • Swim sober.
  • Have a phone handy in case you need to call for help.

Know your abilities

One of the most important things in any type of swimming situation is knowing your own limitations and the limitations of those in your group. These can include your level of physical fitness, any medical conditions, and your swimming ability.

Before taking the plunge, learn these five basic skills and how to use them in every type of water environment.

  • Enter water that’s over your head and return to the surface
  • Float or tread water for at least one minute
  • Flip over and turn around in the water
  • Swim at least 25 yards
  • Exit the water

Encourage every member of your family to learn to swim. You are never too old to take swim lessons and the skills you learn could save your life or the life of a family member.

Swimming in a natural environment

Swimming in natural environments such as lakes, rivers, or ponds poses additional challenges compared to a pool which is more predictable and controlled. With higher water levels this year, Lake Erie is even more dangerous than in the past. Before you head to the beach, keep these things in mind:

  • In case of thunder and lightning, leave the water immediately and find shelter indoors and stay there for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap. If you are outside, avoid open areas, tall, isolated trees, and metal objects.
  • Prepare for unexpected changes in air or water temperature. Even on a hot day, the temperature can drop quickly.
  • Be aware of fast-moving currents, waves, and rapids. In shallow water they can still knock you down and make it difficult to get back up. Lake Erie is prone to high waves and strong currents and it’s important to never swim on rough days. Check for beach advisories before heading out.
  • Watch out for hazards underwater including rocks and debris, vegetation and fish, or drop-offs that change the water depth unexpectedly.
  • Watch for other people’s activities in the same water. At beaches, there are large groups of people sharing the water and it can be easy to run into someone else and get injured.

Boat safety

Boating can be a great way to travel and enjoy the lake and bay. But, accidents can happen so take these precautions before setting sail:

  • Make sure you are properly educated on the rules, your responsibilities, and how to safely operate your boat. Human error is the leading cause of boating accidents.
  • Make sure your boat is safe. Check everything to make sure it is in working order or visit the U.S. Coast Guard Website for information on how to have a free Vessel Safety Check.
  • Have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on your boat. The U.S. Coast Guard requires one life jacket per person on the boat and children must wear their life jackets while aboard.

Dr. Nimitt Patel is the Medical Director of Trauma Services at Fisher-Titus and is a MetroHealth Trauma Surgeon. Fisher-Titus has been a Level 3 Trauma Center since 2009 and has had a Trauma Partnership with MetroHealth since October 2018.