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Ocean rescue officials point to water safety ahead of holiday weekend

Every year in the United States there are nearly 5,800 trips to emergency rooms and more than 3,800 deaths due to drowning.

However, drowning death is under-reported as drowning victims sometimes survive for extended periods after which their cause of death may be attributed to other medical complications, but in some cases it can be a preventable tragedy.

Ocean rescue officials want Floridians to avoid becoming part of the statistic by brushing up on water safety guidelines before the July 4th holiday weekend.

"We're expecting larger crowds, about typical holiday type crowds," said Captain Zachary Houston, Ocean Rescue at Hannah Park. "All the beaches out here will be pretty packed per usual as we expect."

This year, the holiday weekend will be different due to the pandemic. The fireworks are postponed and beach-goers are encouraged to social distance. Houston reminds people to be preventative.

“Obviously PPE, we’re wearing it,” explained Houston. “We suggest everyone who is coming out to the beaches to at least bring it along and then social distancing is still very important on the beach. If you’re not familiar with a crowd of people, we would advise standing a distance from them and avoiding interaction with them.”

Houston said the water conditions are expected to be calm this weekend, but he reminds people to swim near a lifeguard and listen to their warnings. He also encouraged parents to keep an eye on their kids near the water.

“Be with your kids at all times at the beach because in these crowds they can get lost real quick if you let them wander off for a second, that can turn into something real quick,” said Houston. “If that happens to you, just seek out a lifeguard immediately and they will do everything they need to do to try and locate your child.”

Taking a few simple steps when you visit oceans, lakes, rivers, and other natural bodies of water can help protect everyone.

  • Supervise When in or Around Water. Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool children should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.
  • Use the Buddy System. Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.
  • Seizure Disorder Safety. If you or a family member has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water, including swimming pools. Consider taking showers rather than using a bath tub for bathing. Wear life jackets when boating.
  • Learn to Swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent unsupervised access, are still important.
  • Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.
  • Air-Filled or Foam Toys are not safety devices. Don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings”, “noodles”, or inner-tubes, instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Avoid Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
  • Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out (sometimes called “hypoxic blackout” or “shallow water blackout”) and drown.
  • Know how to prevent recreational water illnesses. For more information about illnesses from recreational water, see the More Information section below.
  • Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.

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