Summer Water Safety: What You Need to Know
If you're heading to the nearest beach or pool for a spot of family fun, you should know these tips.
And with all the excitement, it’s important that we never forget that water in any form – pools, beaches, rivers and lakes – is one of nature's most beautiful yet dangerous elements. We want to teach our kids to be confident around water but not too cocky when it comes down to it either.
Most pools and beaches have lifeguards on duty to take care of us should any situation call for assistance, but if we're at least armed with some safe swimming and waterside tips, then being prepared will stand us in good stead. As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Irish Water Safety has some great advice not just for the prevention of accidents but also what to do in an emergency situation.
Children should never be unsupervised when there's water around. Children have drowned in very low water levels, so please don’t just presume because it’s only up to their knees that no harm can come. A simple trip and a bump to the head can lead to tragedy in the shallowest of waters. Even something as innocuous as a paddling pool should be monitored and supervised at all times.
If you're on holidays and fancy a trip to the pool, always check the depth of the pool before getting in. Obey all the signage: No Running; No Diving, etc. They are there for a reason after all.
If you're lucky enough to go on holidays and you will have your own pool, create a list of your own rules for pool times and have a zero tolerance policy. If kids break them, they face a consequence. For example, if you suggest no running around the pool where the ground gets slippery and wet, but the children insist on doing so, then perhaps make the pool out of bounds for an hour. They’ll reconsider the next time.
Lakes and rivers are one of Ireland’s greatest resources for fun days out in the sun – aside from our glorious beaches, that is. But they have their own dangers associated with them. It’s often hard to see what’s under the water, so always go in feet first.
If you're having a picnic, steer clear of the riverbanks –they can be unstable and give way under you. Set yourselves up back a bit from the edges.
Depths of rivers and lakes can easily change underfoot. Try to avoid wading in rivers as it can go from shallow to very deep in one or two steps. Stick to swimming.
I have many memories of sand sandwiches at the beach, but always look back with fondness on Summer days spent in Brittas and Ballymoney. I'm from a big extended family so our outings were always en masse, which meant there was always someone looking out for us. Plenty of adults to go with more than plenty of children.
The first rule at the beach is never to let anyone go swimming alone. Keep all swimmers in sight at all times. If Dad is setting up a picnic, Mum should be keeping an eye on the kids and preferably in the water with them.
Avoid bringing too many toys into the sea with you – they can easily go out of reach and sometimes you have to cut your losses and offer that ball (or whatever) to the Gods of the sea. Stay away from lilos and air mattresses.
Again, watch for the signs on the beach and note where your nearest lifeguard is situated. Follow their lead – if they say it’s too dangerous to swim, then it is.
Know what to watch for
Drowning can happen anytime, anywhere, and in the blink of an eye. It's important to note that drowning is also SILENT. It is not like how we see it in movies or on TV, where someone is thrashing around and calling for help. Drowning does not look like drowning. A person in difficulty may be yelling and waving their arms wildly but once they are actually drowning they'll be bobbing up and down and will not have time or indeed energy to call for help. Their arms will instinctively go out to the side of their bodies to push against the water rather than waving them around. It’s almost a lack of movement rather than distressed movements that you'll be looking out for.