Always follow water-safety measures

  • Published
  • By Stephen Hughes, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Fire Inspector

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Fire Department would like to help you stay safe the next time you go out on the water.

Swimming and boating can be great ways to beat the heat this summer but are not without dangers. Though preventable in most cases, drowning remains a leading cause of death in children each year. While drownings in hot tubs and pools are more common in younger kids, teens are more at risk in ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans.

As the area’s largest and most advanced team, the WPAFB Fire Department has been providing Miami Valley’s water rescue for over a decade. With over 20 certified dive team members, multiple watercraft, and varying specialties such as swift water and scuba, Wright-Patt handles it all.

Two WPAFB Fire Department water-rescue team members recently took time to answer some questions and offer lifesaving advice. District Chief Timothy Howells and Capt. Gregory Arnold agree that wearing a Coast Guard-approved life vest should be the first step in water safety.

“If you can’t see your feet in the water, you should be wearing a life vest,” Howells said.

The Miami Valley area is on pace for a dozen water-rescue calls this year. Unfortunately, many will result in drowning fatalities due to their nature. Oftentimes, calls come in too late or even hours after an incident.

“The best approach for reducing the number of fatalities is by increasing the public’s awareness of water-safety measures and preventing incidents from ever occurring,” Arnold added.

With that, they provided some excellent tips for staying safe in the water.

For pools and hot tubs, as well as recreational swim areas:

  • Look for a lifeguard or dedicated person to ensure children’s safety
  • If you have a pool, ensure it’s gated and locked when not in use
  • Check with your local YMCA or Red Cross for availability of swim lessons. Classes may be free or at reduced rates and can begin for toddlers at age 1. If you do not know how to swim, consider lessons for yourself as well.
  • Always remain within arm’s reach and use life vests or flotation devices for children and new swimmers

For ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans:

  • Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest
  • Avoid water features such as spillways, dams, fountains and falls
  • Do not go into the water alone or in unfamiliar areas
  • Avoid alcohol and certain medications
  • Avoid natural water sources such as rivers and lakes within one week of a heavy rain due to hidden debris
  • Always avoid gravel pits and unknown water sources with thick algae (blooms)

Swimming and boating are great summer activities and meant to be enjoyed. Following a few guidelines can prevent tragedy and ensure the worst thing you come home with is a sunburn.