There are an estimated 3 to 4 million lakes in the United States. One study even found that lake destinations were the number one spot for travel in 2012. This does not surprise me. Lakes offer plenty of recreational activities at an extremely low price. Many area lakes surrounding my city are even free to use.
Every year, millions of people boat, swim, water ski, wakeboard and jet ski on America’s lakes. However fun the lake is, swimming in natural, open water is very different from in the backyard pool. These natural bodies of water come with risks. Most drownings are due to unintentional and accidental fall into the water. For children ages 1 to 4, drowning is the leading cause of death. Even adults who know how to swim are at risk for drowning.
Lakes, rivers and streams pose problems more than a crystal-clear pool. Lakes pose a danger because you cannot see the bottom and the water and current can change drastically and quickly. Drop offs and depth changes happen without warning and unexpectedly, even in roped-off designated swimming areas.
Most drownings are preventable. A day at the lake can be fun, safe and accident-free if you always follow these 15 safety tips.
1. Teach children how to swim. Your city’s parks and recreation department should have low-cost swimming lessons in your area.
2. Learn CPR. The American Red Cross teaches CPR classes for adults all over the United States for a nominal fee.
3. Never swim alone. Always use the buddy system.
4. Keep children at arm’s reach. A child can drown in 20 seconds.
5. Have small children wear a Cost Guard-approved life jacket. Floaties, arm swimmers and foam noodles do not count as life preservers.
6. Swim in designated areas only. Some areas of the lake might look inviting, but might be unsafe. Avoid areas close to dams or that are not roped or buoyed off for swimming.
7. Never leave children unsupervised. Do not distract yourself from keeping a close eye by reading, texting or talking to others.
8. Do not dive in the water unless you know it is a safe depth and clear of obstructions and debris.
9. Wear shoes made for swimming. You never know what is on the bottom of the lake; fishhooks, jagged rocks and broken glass will cause cuts and lacerations.
10. Skip entering the water from a muddy bank, muddy banks can act like quick sand.
11. Keep your eye on the weather. If you hear thunder or see lightning, get out of the water immediately and seek shelter.
12. Avoid ingesting lake water. Natural bodies of water may have some pretty nasty stuff in it that can make you very sick and even kill you. Wear a mask or goggles that cover your nose.
13. Know the distance from shore. Glare off the water makes it easy to misjudge the distance to the nearest shore. Do not swim out too far without a float.
14. Even in the hot summer, some lakes can be cool enough to cause hypothermia. If you or anyone else is suffering from muscles cramps or is shivering—get out of the water and warm up.
15. Watch out for currents. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out. Then swim at an angle toward the shore. If you cannot get out of the rip current, tread water, wave your arms and yell for help. If you see someone stuck in a rip current, do not go in after them—you will put yourself at risk. If there is not a lifeguard on duty, call 911 for help.
If you plan to boat this summer, read “Boating Safety Equipment” for ways to keep you free from danger while on the water.
For a fun-filled day out on the lake, whether you are boating, just lounging or swimming, Cheaper Than Dirt! sells a wide variety of water sports items from pool floaties, inflatable boats, to inflatable water games and boat towables.
Today’s post concludes my series on preparing for spring and summer. I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for warmer, longer days filled with fun and sun. If you followed me all the way through, you should be plenty prepared for the coming months and if you didn’t—come back to The Shooter’s Log tomorrow for a complete listing of all 30 posts.
Be prepared, have fun, but most of all stay safe! Enjoy your spring and summer, ya’ll!
How are you going to spend your summer vacation this year? Will you be out on America’s lakes? How will you stay safe? Tell us in the comment section.