During the transition to summer, COVID-19 has continued to draw the eyes of the media, while shifting everyday routines on the road to the openings of beaches. With daily questions like, “Is daycare open?” “Will jobs reopen soon?” “Should schools stay closed?” becoming the norm, COVID-19 has surely created new daily challenges, especially surrounding water.
The month of May is National Water Safety Month (NWSM), that began in 2003 as a week-long initiative promoting information about water safety, and became a month-long annual call to action. NWSM has become a crucial form of awareness for caregivers to take action in order to protect loved ones from drowning or being injured in bodies of water like oceans, lakes, rivers, pools, and ponds.
Prior to COVID-19, one of the main causes of injury or death in children ages one to fourteen was drowning. Due to COVID-19, the number of injuries and drownings of children under the age of six has increased a considerable amount. For many years, the Red Cross has partnered with water safety advocates to promote educational programs, and even now during these difficult times, the Red Cross continues to take action.
Now it is up to parents and caregivers to teach young children about water safety. The Whale Tales Resource Guide gives parents lesson guides to teach children with videos and activities surrounding water safety. Each episode includes memorable lines or phrases for young children to remember when they are on their next swim.
Water safety is needed more than ever before, states like Florida are beginning to open gyms, restaurants, and beaches to have a semblance of normality, while malls, stores, and residential pools still remain restricted. This leaves residents exposed to few options for outside activities, and thus increasing large crowds on beaches with many distractions and little supervision.
To lessen the risks and enjoy time with love ones, keep the following points in mind when swimming in all bodies of water:
- Swim in approved areas where a lifeguard is nearby
- Swim with a friend, family member; never swim alone
- Stay away from areas with rip currents, waves, or rapid water motion
- Listen to your body and stay within your swimming abilities
It is crucial to take into account young children and inexperienced swimmers should never be left unsupervised while avoiding distractions like being on the phone. In addition, the inexperienced swimmer may wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets near water.
Many Florida counties have advised that in a case where a child goes missing on a beach to check the body of water first. It is important to know how to call and dial 9-1-1 during an emergency. To be informed about the prevention and responses to an emergency, go to the Red Cross website for home pool safety, water safety, first aid, and CPR/AED resources.
With different schedules and environments, it is important to know that residences with home pools and young children should be kept secure with appropriate barriers. Tragically, children who live by home pools have become drowning victims and often have been left unsupervised for less than five minutes without the presence of a caregiver or parent.
To continue to swim safely, download the free Red Cross Swim App to learn how to keep yourself and loved ones safe around water. This app covers information to prevent drowning, along with emergency responses. In addition, it includes educational clips and games for children.
With water safety preventions, cautions, and awareness, we can defeat this quiet cause of death. The World Health Organization claims that drowning is accountable for 7% of injured associated deaths and around 320,000 people die yearly worldwide since 2016 due to drowning.
In this time where we have all, made adjustments to our new normal, some may feel a loss of control. Only with water safety awareness and knowledge are we able to take control and inform others how they too can save lives.
To be further informed on water safety and to take Red Cross certified trainings, visit http://redcross.org/watersafetyforkids and https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class.
Written by Maria Arango