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Critical Days of Summer Week 9: Remember to practice water safety

During the 2014 Critical Days of Summer it is important to understand the potential hazards while going to the beach. Swimmers should remain vigilant of tides and currents, as well as changing flag conditions before entering the water. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Laura Valentine/Released)

During the 2014 Critical Days of Summer it is important to understand the potential hazards while going to the beach. Swimmers should remain vigilant of tides and currents, as well as changing flag conditions before entering the water. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Laura Valentine/Released)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Are you looking forward to swimming this summer? Are you ready to swim? Preparation is important for all sports activities.

One of the best ways to prepare for water safety is to learn how to swim. Learning how to swim can involve little to no equipment unless you're building a pool in your backyard! What can be an expense is learning to swim, either for yourself or your children, but it's also a lifesaving investment.

Whether swimming at pools, lakes or rivers, safety is emphasized while enjoying recreational sports. However, while swimming at oceans there are other precautions to take.

The National Park Service reminds swimmers that the most important thing to remember if you are caught in a rip current is: do not swim against the current! Instead, swim across the current, parallel to the shore, slowly working your way back to the beach at an angle. Above all, remain calm. Signal for help if you need it.

Here are some more safety tips from the NPS:
· Underwater sandbars often develop offshore forming a trough of water between the bar and the beach. Rip currents form when the sand bar breaks and the trapped water funnels out to the sea through the break, sometimes sweeping swimmers with it.
· Non-swimmers should use Coast Guard-approved flotation vests, even while wading.
· Do not swim in the ocean alone - take a buddy with you.
· Stay sober - do not swim while intoxicated. Alcohol can affect your judgment and your body temperature - impairing your ability to swim.
· Do not swim during rough seas. Broken necks and paralysis have resulted from swimmers being thrown into the ocean bottom headfirst.
· The force of big waves crashing at the shore's edge can pick you up and throw you into the sand. This may result in a dislocated shoulder or knee.
· Due to dangerous currents, never swim in inlets.
· Do not swim at night or near fishing piers.
· Children should swim only with adult supervision.
· Know the various types of ocean currents and how to get out of them.
· Watch the weather. Storms and squalls come up quickly.
· Don't swim during thunderstorms; lightning is extremely dangerous and does strike the beach.
· Don't wear shiny objects when swimming - these objects may attract sharks and other fish.
· Watch for jellyfish. If stung, seek first aid if needed. Do not rub sand on the stings. Spraying or pouring vinegar on the sting site often reduces the pain. If you don't have vinegar, try ammonia or denatured alcohol.
· Do not swim near surfers - surfboard fins can cut you.

Proper preparation for all water activities is vital. Understanding the dangers your surroundings impose is the most important part, but you could also prevent tragedy by practicing these safety guides: learning lifesaving techniques, learning CPR, looking at the area you are swimming, knowing your skills and staying within those boundaries, ensuring the water is deep enough if wanting to jump or dive and never mixing alcohol with water activities. For more information on water safety, look at the following links:

Swimming
http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/water-safety
http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/ocean-swimming-safety.htm
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/safe-swimming-diving
http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/states.html
http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/tips.shtml
http://www.poolsafely.gov/

Other water sports
http://www.surfinghandbook.com/knowledge/ocean-safety/
http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/dbor/pwc1.htm
http://www.pwia.org/

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