When we think of summer, we typically think of the beach. For those of us who live in the greater Philadelphia area that means going to the Jersey Shore. However, a relaxing trip to the ocean shouldn’t cause you to relax when it comes to safety. Drowning is the number one accidental cause of death for children ages 1 -4 and the sixth leading cause of accidental death for all ages in the United States. Ten Americans die by drowning every day. And nearly 80 percent of people who drown in the United States are male. Listed below are five simple tips to help you be safe on your end-of-summer trip to the ocean.
1. Only Swim on a Beach Protected by a Lifeguard
The chances of drowning on a beach without a lifeguard are almost five times higher than your chances on a beach with a lifeguard. You should swim between the flags positioned on either side of the lifeguard stand. The colors of the flags indicate both the nature of the surf that day and what activities are permitted in the water. A red or yellow flag typically means no swimming or restricted swimming. A green or orange flag means swimming is allowed. As you swim in the ocean, you need to be mindful that currents will move you along the shore. By continuing to swim within the boarder of the flags you can ensure that the lifeguard on duty is able to see you.
2. Never Swim Alone
When you swim with someone else, both you and your “buddy” are able to watch the other for signs of trouble. Drowning can happen quickly and silently. It is important to always keep visual contact with each other in order to look for signs of distress. Waves can be much more powerful than you initially perceive. Waves that break directly on the shore, as opposed to a few yards out have the potential to cause severe injures that can cause a swimmer to be knocked unconscious or injured such that they cannot stand up. Studies have shown that someone can drown in as little as two inches of water. Additionally, alcohol consumption can also affect your balance and ability to withstand the impact of a wave. Among teenagers and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths that involve water recreation.
3. Learn to Swim
Being able to swim is the best defense against drowning. Children who have formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent. Ocean swimming is different than pool swimming. When waves break unevenly along the shoreline, it can create a rip current. Rip currents can be hazardous for even experienced swimmers. Studies have shown that 80% of lifeguard rescues are caused by rip currents. If you find that you are being pulled away from the shore, don’t try to swim against the current. Allow the current to carry you until you are able to swim horizontal in relation to the shore. When you feel the current relax, swim diagonally toward the shore. If you are unable to make it to the shore, signal to your swimming partner or the lifeguard on duty that you need help.
4. Don’t Use a Raft or Float Where You Can’t Swim
Many non-swimmers use inflatable rafts or “floating islands’ to float off-shore into areas where they cannot swim. Unfortunately, if they fall off the flotation device, they can quickly drown. No one should use a raft in an area of the ocean where they cannot swim. When in a boat in the ocean, you should always wear a life jacket if you cannot swim. Most people who end up in the water as a result of a boating accident, never expected to end up in the water. New Jersey law requires that children 12 and under must wear a life jacket whenever they are in a boat, unless in a fully enclosed, non-removable cabin.
5. Know the Terrain Before You Dive
Wave conditions and seasonal changes in wave patterns can create unevenness on the ocean floor. Sudden deep spots called inshore holes can surprise ocean “waders”, who quickly find themselves in ocean water over their heads. These holes can also create channels which can intensify the effect of rip currents. Additionally, sandbars can create issues for swimmers who like to dive into the breaking waves. Serious, lifelong injuries occur every year due to diving headfirst into the ocean. Bodysurfing can result in a serious neck injury if the swimmers head strikes the sandy bottom of the ocean. You should check the area you will be swimming in for any drop-offs and sandbars before diving and if you enjoy bodysurfing , always extend your hands ahead of you, as you ride the waves.
At Drake, Hileman & Davis, our personal injury attorneys have been concerned for the safety of those in our community for more than 30 years. We have been helping the injured find answers, whenever tragedy strikes. We have a proven track record of results and satisfied clients. We’re ready to answer your questions and provide you with the legal help you need. Contact us on-line or call us at 1-888-777-7098 to schedule your free consultation in the convenience of your home or at one of our five offices located throughout the region.