It’s that time of year! As the temperature increases, so does our desire to flock to the water, in all its forms. Some people gather around pools, some take to the beach and some pack up their boats and head out on the open water. For many of us in New Jersey, that means heading to the Jersey Shore.
Whatever your destination of choice might be, safety should always be at the top of your list. The fact is that one incident can turn your next outing into a terrible experience with potentially tragic results.
For example, from 2005 to 2014, there were over an average of ten drowning deaths per year in the United States. Roughly 20 percent of those victims were children aged 14 and younger. But having a safe summer season goes beyond drowning prevention, though that is a significant part of it.
Whether you’ll be lounging around the pool, riverside or beach, it’s important to make sure you and your family have the best time possible.
Why it’s important: Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children between the ages of one and four.
The most important thing is for children to be supervised when at the pool. Drowning accidents can happen quickly, so keeping a close eye on your kids is an absolute must. Give your children swimming lessons, and consider making one of the first lessons how to float on their back. Remove all large floats from the pool, which can obstruct your line of sight with your child. Keep the area surrounding the pool free of all unnecessary clutter to avoid slips or falls.
Why it’s important: Not only are lakes and rivers host to some particularly dangerous microbes, they are also dangerous for drowning accidents.
When you jump into a lake or river, always hold your nose. Each year, many Americans get an amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri lodged in their sinuses. This infects the brain and there is very little that doctors can do to combat the effects.
Swimming these bodies of water can also be very hazardous, so it is vital that you and those with you wear life jackets. Many boating-related drowning fatalities occur when a boat has stopped and boaters are swimming around the vessel.
June is National River Month, which stresses litter reduction and clean water. It’s a great reminder not to throw away waste in our treasured waterways.
Why it’s important: Because of factors like rip currents, waves, sea creatures and changes in the tide, the ocean is much more unpredictable than other bodies of water.
The same safety precautions for pools, rivers and lakes also apply to oceans. Wear life jackets and always supervise your children. When entering the ocean, always have someone else nearby to keep watch and be especially mindful of hazardous ocean conditions, even if the water appears to be calm.
June has been declared National Oceans Month, intended to celebrate these life-sustaining ecosystems and encourage everyone to avoid polluting in oceans.
Why it’s important: In 2015, there were over 4,000 boating accidents involving 626 deaths, as counted by the Coast Guard.
Over three quarters of boating-related fatalities were accidental drowning deaths. 85 percent of those victims weren’t wearing a life jacket. Over 70 percent of boating-related drowning deaths occurred on boats where the operator didn’t receive boating safety instruction.
The takeaways from these statistics are clear. Always wear a lifejacket and make sure that the boat operator has been educated in boating safety, preferably with a nationally approved boating safety certificate. And, of course, never let the boat operator drink while operating the vessel.
For those boating in our home state of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Police provide an excellent boating safety manual to help you make sure your next boating venture is a safe one.
Why it’s important: Overexposure to the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer.
The hazards of summer activities aren’t limited to the water. Sunscreen will help prevent sunburns; just remember to use a sun protection factor of at least 30 and reapply sunscreen regularly. Wear sunglasses that protect from both UVA and UVB rays. This will reduce the risk of developing cataracts and protect the sensitive skin around your eyes.
In the Jersey Shore, as in many shores around the country, high levels of bacteria are detected in the water. To avoid contaminated water, don’t take to the water directly after storms. Be aware that grayish water with strong odors is a warning sign for contamination. Don’t ingest water while swimming, and always wash your hands and face after venturing out into the water.
Remember that you should always keep a close eye on your personal possessions any time you are in a highly populated area, like popular beaches. People often keep their wallets or other valuable items next to their favorite beach spot, but these items should never be left unattended.
These safety tips are a good place to start your summer fun, but they by no means represent the entirety of all safety measures you should take for yourself and your family. It is up to each of us to be vigilant and educate ourselves on the dangers that linger just around the corner, especially when boating and swimming are involved.
If you are water-bound by nature and regularly find yourself around pools, lakes and beaches, consider taking classes that provide safety training, including rescue and CPR. You never know when someone might require help out on the water.
There are so many ways to enjoy the beautiful summer months. Just because there are increased risks for injuries, it doesn’t mean that these activities should be avoided. Instead, make safety your first priority and you’ll find that you can enjoy all of the pleasures of summer without taking on the risks.
So get your beach towels, sunscreen, and lifejackets and enjoy the many different waterways that your state and country have to offer. And while you’re at it, keep a safety checklist nearby to make sure all your bases are covered.
Have a great – and safe — summer season!
The Law Offices of James C. DeZao is a personal injury law firm in Parsippany, New Jersey. His love of boating, scuba diving fishing and generally all water activities led him to write the article and preach caution this summer vacation. Jim is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.