Dipping Into Water Safety
Warmer weather can be a call to adventure. Summertime may prompt you to soak up the sun and enjoy the great outdoors. As you prepare for your river trips and pool parties, it is imperative to keep water safety top of mind.
Dana Arseneau, Trauma Program Coordinator at Riverside Healthcare, reminds us of the importance of practicing water safety. “Life is just so fragile,” she says. “Unfortunately, we see drownings every year that are very preventable if you just follow some simple tips.”
Rivers: Full of Surprises
Nature promises excellent recreation, especially around the Kankakee River. It can also be quite perilous on the river for those who are unprepared. Arseneau notes that being a strong swimmer is helpful, but nature’s waters can challenge even the strongest swimmer with unexpected challenges.
“Even if you’re a strong swimmer, you can get your foot caught under a tree branch that’s down or a large rock, or you can get caught in a hole that has really strong undercurrents that are stronger than you,” she warns. So, stay out if the current is fast.
For those who want to have a dip in the river, keep in mind that there are no lifeguards. “Don’t swim or wade alone,” Arseneau cautions. “Have your cell phone with you. Make sure someone knows where you’re going. Wear a life jacket or personal floatation device and make sure it fits you correctly.”
A smart rule of thumb is that if you don’t see the bottom of the river and you don’t know the area, avoid it. There are several holes in the Kankakee River that go deep, like Hyde’s Hole near the water treatment plant, Devil’s Hole near Route 113, the mouth of Rock Creek, and close to the Indian caves. Dams are also dangerous, so heed all signs and follow them for your safety.
If you’re planning on boating and swimming, there are additional precautions to take. “It is against the law for anyone under the age of 13 to be on a watercraft that is under 26 feet long without having a life jacket,” says Arseneau. It’s also best to avoid swimming if you’re tired or you’ve been consuming alcohol.
Pools: Protect Yourself and Loved Ones
Unlike the river, swimming pools don’t offer the same unpredictable variations as debris, holes, and undercurrents. However, the risk of drowning is still present for both children and adults.
Arseneau offers practical advice. “I tell my kids to use the buddy system, so you’re never, ever, ever allowed to get in the pool unless you have somebody with you.”
This is a smart practice for both children and adults. “Make sure you have a gate, make sure it locks, and make sure you’re actually using it. Close the gate so that kids can’t get in, and make sure it’s nothing they can climb up and over. There are actually little alarms you can put on these gates and barriers to help protect kids,” she adds.
When attending or hosting a pool party, one parent must be assigned to watching the children in the water. Don’t assume that the other parent is watching. It’s even better for that adult to be present in the water with an eye on the kids. “Never, ever, ever leave kids unattended around the pool,” urges Arseneau.
Proactive Steps Now Can Save a Life Later
Getting your children in swim lessons at an early age is a good idea, even if you don’t have a family pool or plan to be out on the water frequently. The goal is for children to grow up knowing how to float and keep their head above the water. Water safety also involves proper-fitting floatation devices.
“Always try to be safe in the water by following these simple, easy tips,” notes Arseneau. “They are all normal commonsense things, but we tend not to do them and that’s when we see incidents happen. It’s like, ‘Oh, it won’t happen to me,’ but you know, these things can happen to anyone.”
**To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Dana Arseneau, Trauma Program Coordinator at Riverside Healthcare, please follow this link.