Jess Lukas is a youth and family coordinator at the Greater Burlington YMCA. She is also a member of the SafeKids Vermont coalition. The UVM Children’s Hospital is also a member.

Finally, summer temperatures have arrived. The sun is bringing us longer days and more outdoor time!

If you know me, you know that I love summer. I wear flip flops all year round. I crave the heat of the sun. Most of all, that I crave the water. I love visiting swimming holes and waterfalls, kayaking the rivers, SUP-ing the bays, teaching swim lessons in the pool, and enjoying Lake Champlain.

My love of all things water is only tempered by that twinge of anxiety I get each year around this time. Why is that? Well, I am not alone in a love of the water. As we say at the YMCA, “The world may be 71 percent water, but children are 100 percent curious.”

As an aquatics professional, I get nervous because children have outgrown last year’s life jackets. Inexperienced swimmers haven’t used their still-developing skills in months. The appeal of swift water and rock ledges make some forget about their dangers. Too many beaches and pools are without lifeguards. Too many boaters drive under the influence.

To combat my anxiety so that I might enjoy my favorite season, I re-dedicate myself to educating families and caregivers in our community on how to keep people safe around water.

Water Safety: 6 Tips to Stay Safe

As we all look to enjoy being around the water this summer, here are some things to keep in mind so that you and those in your care are safe:

  1. Please NEVER, EVER swim alone. Teach this to your children,, too.
  2. Don’t dive right in – literally or figuratively. Walk in where you know you can be a safe swimmer and ease back into the flow. Enroll your children in swim lesson and pace yourself for that triathlon you’re doing next month.
  3. After a rainstorm, be mindful that rivers run high and fast. Stay away from our amazing watering holes and be careful when paddling.
  4. Familiarize yourself with Shallow Water Blackout. Prolonged breath holding games in the water, or enjoying cardiac activities right before jumping into the water can be deadly.
  5. Be sure the personal flotation device (PFD) everyone is utilizing on boats is the appropriate weight and fits snuggly. Follow local regulations. In most places, children are required by law to have a life jacket on while boats are in motion. I would suggest using them even if a boat is stopped. A PFD must be present in boats (non-motorized as well) for adults, too (one per person).
  6. Do not take your eyes off those for whom you are caring whenever they are in or around water – not even for a second. Sixty percent of youth drownings occur within 10 feet of safety. Eighty-eight percent of children who drown are under some form of supervision. Take turns with other adults so that someone is always watching the water.

We can work together in our community to prevent water emergencies this summer – the greatest time of year!

Jess Lukas is a youth and family coordinator at the Greater Burlington YMCA. She is also a member of the SafeKids Vermont coalition. The UVM Children’s Hospital is also a member.

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