Although it’s a great way to exercise and stay cool during the hot summer weather, participating in water sports is not without risk. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 360,000 people drown each year. The good news is that most water-related fatalities and injuries can be prevented when safety steps are taken. These tips should help you #BeSafe this summer!
What’s in the Water?
Identifying the Danger of Algae and other Contaminants
According to UNICEF, in 2015, nine percent of every child’s death, worldwide, resulted from illnesses caused by toxic water. Poor water quality contributes directly to life-threatening ailments as common but potentially deadly as diarrhea to as rare and dangerous as malaria and schistosomiasis. Thankfully, in most parts of the U.S., the water supply is exceedingly clean — especially when compared to what’s available in developing countries. Nevertheless, United States’ officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the presence of toxic algae in dozens of areas in the Midwest. In Flint Michigan, for example, poor water supply (and mismanagement of the same) has caused serious health problems for residents, as well as massive political fallout. Personally, I prefer muddy water when it comes to splashing and playing.
Algae in a Nutshell
Present in all bodies of water, algae plays an important role as a building block in the food chain.
- It functions as a carbon sink, which pulls excess CO2 from the air, reducing the risk of climate change.
- Blooms are outsized algae growths which often occur due to increased temperatures, as well as fertilizer and wastewater runoff.
- The most dangerous kind of algae is cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. This type is toxic to animals and humans.
How Algae Affects Humans
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently noted an alarming rise in incidences of algal blooms in drinking water reservoirs. They identify golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) as a frequent culprit relative to algal blooms, which include those which have affected Lake Erie in the recent past. Steps taken to mitigate the problem include better monitoring, and, in the case of Lake Erie, an ongoing effort to minimize farm runoff — which has contributed directly to the algal bloom. Algal bloom sounds like the name of a band.
Sometimes, large geographical regions can be affected. For example in 2014, the entire city of Toledo, Ohio had to avoid drinking tap water due to the presence of Cyanobacteria. More than 500,000 residents were impacted, including thousands of business owners who had to think quickly in order to provide alternative drinking sources for staff and visitors. Since Cyanobacteria are not killed by boiling, the only viable solution is to use bottled water during an algae-related water supply crisis. Boiling kills most micro organisms; so this makes me wonder just how tough these bacteria are!
To combat algal blooms, the water source must be treated. This includes restricting usage of fertilizers and other agricultural runoff sources, adding phosphorous, suction dredging, and wetlands conservation.
Other Common Water Contaminants
Beyond algal blooms, there are many other water contaminants that must be properly monitored and treated:
- Lead seepage was the main problem relative to the drinking water crisis in Flint. This is typically caused by corroded lead pipes which leech contaminants into the water supply, over time. Lead is exceedingly toxic, especially for children, and causes damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, and compromises affects brain development.
- Arsenic is another common contaminant typically found in private wells, as it is found in the earth’s crust. Detrimental health effects include cancers of the bladder, kidney, and skin, as well as blood vessel diseases.
- The EPA lists dozens of other potential contaminants including cleaning supplies, medications, and various other organic and inorganic substances. This makes me rethink my habit of dropping tennis balls and dog toys into my water bowl.
Ensuring the safety and availability of drinking water during a crisis requires diligent monitoring of water quality alerts and preparation of emergency supply kits containing sufficient stores of potable water. So remember to take proper disaster preparation steps and remember that safety is a daily priority. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or To subscribe, click here.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), about 10 people die from unintentionally drowning each day in the United States. In fact, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional death for people of all ages, and is the second leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years in the nation. Globally, the statistics provided by the World Health Organization are scarier yet, with more than 40 people dying by drowning every hour of every day! But the good news is that accidental drownings are preventable as long as you observe a few safety guidelines whenever you are in or around water this summer. Although it probably won’t win you any points for style, the doggie paddle is a great way to stay safe in water.
Wherever you choose to vacation this summer, #BeSafe and #SafeForLife:
- Steady on your feet (or paws). Even if you opt for a “stay-cation” this year, be careful not just in, but around water. This includes areas adjacent to man-made water sources such as the wooden decking around Jacuzzis and spas as well as slick surfaces like freshly watered lawns or pool decks. Slip-and-fall accidents account for a myriad of serious and even life-threatening injuries each year, especially among senior citizens. So instruct children to walk instead of run and help elderly people when they are walking in slippery areas.
- Easy does it. Alcohol and water do not mix. If and when you choose to indulge over the summer, do so when you are clear of water-related dangers. The American Boating Association reports that almost half of all boating accidents involve alcohol. So an easy way to reduce your risk of a boating accident is to stay sober whenever you get behind the water wheel. I’m a teetotaler, myself.
- Start early. Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible. Even babies can learn basic water survival techniques. Be sure to include swimming lessons in your summer routine. And whenever young kids are around a pool, watch them like a hawk and brief babysitters about the necessity of providing constant supervision around water. My wife and I let JR learn to swim when he was a wee pup. He loves the water.
- Make rescue easy. If you have an above-ground or in-ground pool, live near a dock or have a hot tub, post CPR instructions near the water. Also, learn emergency lifesaving procedures so you can provide aid when necessary, while waiting for first responders. Also, make sure a phone is always on hand whenever anyone is in the water. And stow rescue equipment as close to the water as possible. When it comes to drowning, every second counts.
- Discourage accidents. Install proper barriers, covers and alarms on and around your pool and spa. Also, teach your kids to stay away from drains. Tips at Gov point out that children’s hair, limbs, jewelry or bathing suits could potentially get stuck in a drain or suction opening. Also, make sure that all pools and spas (including those in backyards as well as in public areas) have compliant drain covers. And if your pool is not covered, remove bright colored toys or flotation devices from the surface, since these attract curious kids
Be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, not just when you are enjoying the water. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
Part 3 of a 3-part series
This summer, whether you plan to enjoy a stay-cation or leave your house or doghouse for a short or extended period of time, there are several safety-related things to consider. The first two entries in our three-part series covered safety at home and safety while traveling. In this final post about summer safety, we will focus on how to be water safe. I will never understand why humans don’t naturally learn to dog-paddle the way canines do. It comes in handy to know how to swim.
According to the American Red Cross, more than 200 young children drown in backyard swimming pools in the United States each year. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that the six most common causes of drowning include:
1. Inability to swim
2. Absence of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access
3. Lack of close supervision of non-swimmers and/or weak swimmers
4. Omission of life jackets
5. Use of alcohol
6. Seizure-related disorders
Drowning is as significant a concern in natural bodies of water as it is in home and public swimming pools and hot tubs. The U.S. Lifesaving Organization (USLO) says the major causes of ocean-related accidents are weather-related swells and rip currents. In 2014, there were:
- 90,964 swimmers rescued near U.S. beaches
- 4,225 boat rescues and 5,240 boat assists
- 7,652,479 preventive actions
- 341,143 medical aid incidents
- 93 unguarded drownings
- 19 guarded drownings
- 35 other water-related fatalities
So, this summer, take steps to make water safety a priority:
- Swim only in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
- Swim with a buddy. Never swim alone. The buddy system is always a good idea.
- Make sure that everyone in your family knows how to swim well. Enroll your kids in age-appropriate classes. We didn’t have to enroll JR in swimming classes. He knew how to doggy-paddle the day he was born.
- Never leave a young child unattended near water.
- Do not trust your child’s life to someone else.
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water. Water wings are insufficient to prevent drowning.
- Do not rely on life jackets, alone.
- Set firm rules for your family members. Make sure children always ask permission before going near the water. This includes the dog bowl. I can’t tell you how many times toddlers have knocked over my water!
- Always be cautious around natural bodies of water (even if you do not intend to swim.)
- If you go boating, wear a life jacket! Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.
- Water and alcohol do not mix. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.
Prevent Unsupervised Access to the Water
- For safety as well as reduced risk of liability, install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Also consider containers of standing water.
- Use pool barriers that enclose the entire pool area, with 4-feet high fences and self-closing gates. Install self-latching gates that open outward, away from the pool. Latches should be high enough to remain well out of reach for a small child.
- Take safety precautions for above-ground and even inflatable pools. Remove access ladders when not in use and cover whenever the pool is not in use.
- Store or distance anything that could potentially provide access to a pool, such as outdoor furniture, trees, walls or swing-sets. You could be held liable if people break into your backyard to swim. Actress Demi Moore recently learned this lesson firsthand.
Maintain Constant Supervision
- Actively supervise kids whenever they are around water. Don’t rely on a lifeguard or other swimmers or sunbathers to supervise your kids.
- Stay within arm’s reach of young children.
- Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
What to do in an Actual Emergency
- If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
- Call 911.
- If you own a home pool or hot tub, make sure you have easy access to appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
The smartest thing to do is to prepare well in advance of any actual emergency. Enroll in water safety, first aid or CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies. We hope this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes this summer to #BeSafe in and around the water. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives.
When a Newport Beach lifeguard, Ben Carlson, ventured on July 6, 2014 to save a swimmer caught in a Rip Current, tragically, he lost his life. One witness described ocean conditions that day by saying, “It looked like a hurricane from outer space.” That seems like a pretty scary place to go swimming.
The survivor who owes his life to Ben Carlson is one of 278 people who were rescued from the turbulent waters off the coast of Newport Beach that day. Unfortunately, Rip Currents are unpredictable, strong and deadly for experienced lifeguards, let alone casual swimmers. But there is good news. If you prepare, no matter the conditions, you can #BESAFE.
Ten Little-known facts about Rip Currents:
1. A Rip Current is a horizontal flow of water moving in the offshore direction.
2. An oft-repeated myth is that a Rip Current is the same as an undertow. On the contrary; a Rip Current is typically the strongest at about a foot off of the ocean floor. Rip Currents do not pull people under the water. They carry people away from the shore.
3. People get in trouble when they are so far offshore that they are unable to swim back to the beach. People also get into trouble when they ignore the conditions and swim anyway. Don’t take unnecessary chances, people!
4. Rip Currents are actually present on many beaches every day of the year. But they are usually too slow to be dangerous to beach-goers. It is only under certain wave, tide and beach shape conditions that they can increase to dangerous speeds. And if you stay on dry land, you won’t have anything to fear from Rip Currents. Just my land-loving opinion.
5. Several different terms are currently used to describe Rip Currents. The National Weather Service, Sea Grant, and the United States Lifesaving Association are working together to develop consistent terminology to provide a clear Rip Current safety message to the public. Seems like a no-brainer, to me.
6. Despite potential danger, The National Weather Service does not issue Rip Current advisories or warnings. However, local beach patrol personnel, local lifeguards, or local law enforcement officials may issue such warnings.
7. The National Weather Service does issue Surf Zone Forecasts for some coastal areas, which contain Rip Current Outlooks. So check out those forecasts if you like to swim.
8. Rip Current Outlooks are issued during the “swimming season,” which is defined by local National Weather Service Office. If you swim in a pool, rip currents won’t affect you. Just another idea…
9. Long period swells sometimes result in minimal wave action where the ocean surface is hardly disturbed, yet there is a greater than normal transport of wave energy into the surf zone which may result in an elevated Rip Current risk.
10. Rip Currents can be 50 feet to 50 yards in width, and the strength of the current can be up to 3 to 5 mph.
The Three-tiered Set of Qualifiers to identify Rip Currents:
• Low Risk – Wind and/or wave conditions are not expected to support the development of Rip Currents; however, Rip Currents can sometimes occur, especially in the vicinity of jetties and piers. Know how to swim and heed the advice of lifeguards. I think this sounds like the best time to doggie-paddle.
• Moderate Risk of Rip Currents – Wind and/or wave conditions support stronger or more frequent Rip Currents. Only experienced surf swimmers should enter the water.
• High Risk of Rip Currents – Wind and/or wave conditions support dangerous Rip Currents. Rip Currents are life-threatening to anyone entering the surf.
Ten Tips for Preparing for/or Surviving a Rip Current:
1. Before heading to the beach, check out the Rip Forecast so that you can be prepared.
2. Only swim at beaches guarded by beach patrol or lifeguards.
3. Don’t swim alone. Swimming is more fun with friends or family members, anyway.
4. Learn to recognize the signs of a Rip Current, which include water traveling from the beach back out to sea. What’s more, Rip Currents produce water which will likely be turbulent due to the carving out of a channel in the sub-sea surface sand.
5. When in doubt, avoid swimming in the ocean.
6. If you are caught in a Rip Current, try to remain calm!
7. Signal to someone on the beach, a lifeguard or a friend, that you need help.
8. If you are a strong swimmer, try to swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the Rip Current. Then swim toward the shore.
9. Never try to swim back to shore directly against the Rip Current, as this can exhaust and drown even the strongest swimmer.
10. For less confident swimmers, wade sideways parallel to the beach until you are out of the rip. And if you aren’t a confident swimmer, maybe stay in a pool until you improve?
When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, it saves lives.
Each June, the National Safety Council celebrates National Safety Month as a time to bring attention to key safety issues. Thousands of organizations across the country are taking part in the campaign to reduce the risk of the safety issues. Safety is a high priority for those of us at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services. In fact, our motto, Be Safe, highlights the priority we put on safety.
Last week, our blog covered several safety issues, including ending prescription drug abuse; preventing slips, trips and falls; being aware of surroundings; and ending distracted driving. This week, we will continue our two-part series by focusing on summer safety. After all; it’s only fitting that we cover the all-important topic before the official start of summer on June 21 and while 4th of July plans are still in the making. I love Independence Day because I can pig out on barbecue without raising eyebrows.
BE SAFE in the Water
Unfortunately, water-related deaths (including swimming and water-transport) are all too common in the U.S.:
- More than one in five drowning victims are children 14-years-old and younger.
- For every child who dies from drowning, another four receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion-related injuries.
- Most drowning and near-drowning incidents happen when a child falls into a pool or is left alone in the bathtub.
- According to the CDC, 80 percent of the people who drown are males.
- Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates.
- Dogs don’t usually drown. We have a natural instinct to swim.
To prevent water-related injury or death, prepare:
- If you or anyone in your family does not know how to swim, enroll them in lessons immediately.
- If you own a hot tub or pool, install a fence with a locked gate or a pad-locked cover.
- Supervise children and puppies at all times.
BE SAFE in the Sun
The drawback about many fun summer activities is that they come at a price– UV exposure.
And that is detrimental because one in five Americans develops skin cancer during their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, over time, excess UV radiation can cause skin cancer, eye damage, immune system suppression, and premature aging. Here are some steps to take to keep you sun safe:
- Wear sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher. Sunscreen gets stuck in my hair and makes a mess.
- If you have fair skin or light hair, you are more susceptible to the sun’s rays and should use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.
- Choose sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum,” meaning that it protects against two types of harmful rays: UVA and UVB.
- Use waterproof sunscreen to make sure it stays on longer, even if you perspire or get wet.
- Reapply sunscreen often – usually every two hours, but sooner if you’ve been swimming or are perspiring heavily.
- Cover your whole body. Remember those areas that can be easy to forget, such as your ears, eyelids, lips, nose, hands, feet, and the top of your head.
- Seek shade or avoid the sun during the peak hours of 10am – 4pm. The sun is strongest during those hours, even on cloudy days.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to help shade your eyes, ears and head.
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection to safeguard your eyes.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that protects a larger area of your skin such as long-sleeve shirts or long pants. Tightly woven fabrics in dark or bright colors are best.
BE SAFE in Hot Weather
Heat illness includes a range of disorders that result when your body is exposed to more heat than it can handle. Anybody not accustomed to hot weather is at risk of suffering from heatstroke (the most serious and life-threatening heat-related illness) as well as heat exhaustion and heat cramps.
Heatstroke in vehicles has become an increasing issue for young children, causing 43 fatalities in 2013, according to Safe Kids. Children overheat three to five times faster than adults, making hot cars lethal in just minutes. Take a second to read more on this growing issue and protect your children.
BE SAFE around Fireworks
In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 structure fires. These fires resulted in an estimated 8,600 people treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries, 39 percent of whom were under 15 years of age
- Leave fireworks to the professionals. Do not use consumer fireworks.
- The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by trained professionals. Even if the use of fireworks is legal in your community, fireworks are far too dangerous for amateurs. Leave fireworks to the professionals. Do not use consumer fireworks.
- After the firework display, don’ let children pick up fireworks that may be left over. They could still be active.
- Closely supervise children and teens if they are using fireworks.
- Do not ever allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
- If you absolutely must use fireworks, use them outdoors only and only if they are legal in your city.
- Keep water at the ready whenever you are shooting fireworks.
- Know your fireworks. Read the caution label before igniting.
- Never mix alcohol and fireworks.
- Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
- Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes, and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor garbage can.
- Avoid using homemade fireworks or illegal explosives: They can kill you! And that’s a bad thing!
- Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department
Over the next few months, while you are enjoying summer activities, whether they take you to the water or in the sun, #BeSummerSafe. When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.
Every day, ten people die from drowning accidents (two of which are children aged 14 or younger.) Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. This is troubling, to say the least. After all; swimming is a popular summer activity. To BE SAFE this summer, follow these safety tips whenever you are in, on or around water—
Around a pool or hot tub
- Make water safety a priority.
- Swim only in designated areas which are supervised by lifeguards.
- Don’t swim alone. I suggest you swim in a pack.
- Make sure that everyone in your family knows how to swim. Enroll in age-appropriate learn-to-swim classes.
- Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Safety covers and pool alarms should be added as additional layers of protection.
- Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear life jackets around water. But do not rely solely on life jackets.
- Set limits based on each person’s ability to swim or dog-paddle.
- Do not let anyone play around drains and suction fittings.
- Ensure that pool barriers enclose the entire pool area, are at least 4-feet high with gates that are self-closing, self-latching and open outward, and away from the pool. The latch should be high enough to be out of a small child’s reach.
- If you have an above-ground or inflatable pool, remove access ladders and secure the safety cover when the pool is not in use.
- Remove any structures that provide access to the pool.
- Keep toys that are not in use away from the pool and out of sight. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
- Actively supervise kids whenever around the water—even if lifeguards are present.
- Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
- Remove water from tubs and buckets after use. Empty all tubs, buckets, containers and wading pools immediately after use. Store them upside-down and out of children’s reach. I think it would be okay to leave the dog bowl full of water.
Close Lids and Doors
- Keep toilet lids closed and use toilet seat locks to prevent drowning…even though it keeps me from drinking the cold water right from the bowl.
- Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed.
Around natural bodies of water
- Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water such as ocean shoreline, rivers and lakes.
- Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards are dangerous. If the weather is poor, swim another day.
- If you go boating, wear a life jacket!
- Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.
Know What to Do in an Emergency
- Enroll in a Red Cross, water safety, and First Aid and/or CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies.
- If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count.
- Call 911.
- Keep appropriate equipment on hand, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.