101 Critical Days of Summer 2011
Splashing, wading, and paddling — it must mean a great day in the
water. Playing at the beach, at a water park, by a lake, or in a pool
can be a real treat on a hot day. Swimming is a lot of fun, but
drowning is a real danger. Let us discuss how to stay safe in the
water this summer!
Why Is It Important to Be Safe in the
Fish are able to live and breathe under water, but people need air to
breathe. People drown when too much water is ingested into their
lungs. When that happens, the lungs cannot carry enough oxygen to the
brain throughout the body.
Drowning is the second most common cause of death from injuries among
kids under the age of 14. Drowning can happen so fast and sometimes in
less than 2 minutes after a person's head goes under the water. That
leaves very little time for someone to respond accordingly.
Many drownings and near-drownings occur when an individual
accidentally falls into a swimming pool. However, accidents can happen
anywhere at someone's home or even at your own house, and that is why
you need to know how to be safe and aware around water.
Pools are awesome! What could be better than a dip in the pool and fun
in the sun? Nevertheless, remember a pool's sides and bottoms are
usually made of concrete, a rock-hard material. A slip or fall could
be painful and dangerous.
Have you seen those big numbers painted on the side of the pool? Those
are called depth markers and they indicate how deep the water is at
that point. You should always look before you jump into a pool. You
should also only dive off the diving board. Never dive off the side of
the pool. The water may be shallower than you think. If you hit the
bottom, you might get knocked out or you could hurt your neck
Test the pool's water temperature before you plunge in. Cold water can
shock your body and make your blood pressure and heart rate go up. You
might accidentally open your mouth to yell and breathe in water. Cold
water can also slow your muscles, making it difficult to swim.
Lakes and Ponds
Everyone loves to swim in streams, lakes, or ponds. Extra care should
be taken when swimming in these beautiful places. You cannot always
see the bottom of the lake or pond, so you do not always know the
depth of the water. This is another reason to always swim with a
friend and or in pairs.
Although the fish swimming around will not hurt you, some ponds and
lakes may hide jagged rocks, broken bottles, or trash. Wear something
to protect your feet. Also, watch out for weeds and grass, which can
trap even the best of swimmers. If you panic and try to yank yourself
free, you can get even more tangled. Instead, shake and pull your arms
and legs slowly to work yourself loose or call out for help.
If you are going out on a boat, always wear a life jacket. Even if you
are a good swimmer, something could cause the boat to tip over and you
could be trapped underneath.
It is hard to resist a day on the beach, but you will need to know
some safety rules when you are swimming in the ocean. When you first
get to the beach, check with the lifeguard to find out how strong the
waves are. Some places fly flags or write notes on a chalkboard to
give swimmers an idea of what conditions are like.
In some places, swimmers may encounter strong undertows or ocean
currents. Rip currents (also called riptides) are so strong that they
can carry swimmers away from shore before they know what is happening.
If you are caught in a current, swim parallel to the shore (alongside
the shore) rather than to the shore until the water stops pulling you,
then swim back to shore. If you cannot get back to the beach, tread
water and wave for a lifeguard's help.
You probably will not see any sharks (although a friendly dolphin may
splash by) where you are swimming. However, you might run into some
jellyfish or Portuguese man-of-wars. These umbrella-shaped, nearly
clear animals can grow to be as large as several feet in diameter!
They are often found floating near the shore. Being stung is no fun
and it can hurt and blister your skin. If you get stung, tell a
lifeguard and seek medical help ASAP.
Here is some other good advice for the beach:
Never swim alone!
Always swim where a lifeguard can see you and in areas that
are marked for swimmers to use.
Wear protective footwear if surfaces are rough or rocky.
Do not swim out too far.
Never pretend to be drowning. The lifeguard may take you
Do not swim close to piers. If the water moves suddenly, you
could hit a piling or a rock.
Store drinks in plastic containers at the beach; broken glass
bottles and bare feet do not mix.
Face the waves, instead of turning your back on them. Then you
will know what is coming.
We all love water parks. Wave pools, giant slides, and squirting
fountains are a lot of fun. To stay safe, find out what each
attraction is like before jumping in. Some wave pools can get rough,
so it is a good idea to have a friend nearby.
Here are other water park safety tips:
Wear a life jacket if you do not know how to swim or if you
are not a strong swimmer.
Read all of the signs before going on a ride. Make sure you
are tall enough, old enough, and do not have any of the
medical conditions that are listed. If you have questions,
check with someone.
Always make sure there is a lifeguard at each ride and listen
to his or her instructions. Wait until the rider ahead of you
has passed a safe point for you to go down the slide.
Always go down the water slide face up and feet first. This is
the safe and correct way to ride.
When you go from ride to ride, do not run — it is slippery!
Also, remember that each ride is different. Read each sign and
note how deep the water is in the pool.
But I Know How to Swim!
It is important to know your limits when it comes to playing in the
water. You could develop a cramp (where a muscle in your body suddenly
tenses up and causes pain) or other physical problem that makes it
hard to swim. If you get a cramp, get out of the water for a while and
give your muscles a rest.
Waves can knock you down or push you to the ocean floor. Get out of
the water when the waves get rough. People also get into trouble when
they start to panic or become too tired to swim. It is important to
know your limits.
Here are some other good water safety tips:
Learn to swim. Contact your local American Red Cross or
community center for information on boating or water safety
Always put on plenty of sunscreen before you go outside. It is
also a good idea to wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your
skin from the sun's harmful rays.
Stop swimming or boating as soon as you see or hear a storm.
Remember, lightning is electricity — electricity and water are
a dangerous combination.
Do not swim in the dark.
Wherever you are swimming, do have a waterfall of fun!
Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these,
two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning is the sixth leading
cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and the
second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14 years.
How big is the problem?
In 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings (non-
boating related) in the United States, averaging ten deaths per
day. An additional 496 people died from drowning in boating-
More than one in five people who die from drowning are children
14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another
four received emergency department care for nonfatal submersion
More than 55% of drowning victims treated in emergency
departments require hospitalization or transfer for higher levels
of care (compared to a hospitalization rate of 3-5% for all
unintentional injuries).1 These injuries can be severe.
Nonfatal drownings can cause brain damage that may result in
long-term disabilities including memory problems, learning
disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g.,
permanent vegetative state).
Who is most at risk?
Males: Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.
Children: Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates.
In 2007, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from an
unintentional injury, almost 30% died from drowning. Fatal
drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional
injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years.
o Between 2000 and 2007, the fatal unintentional drowning rate
for African Americans across all ages was 1.3 times that of
whites. For American Indians and Alaskan Natives, this rate
was 1.7 times that of whites.
o Rates of fatal drowning are notably higher among these
populations in certain age groups. The fatal drowning rate
of African American children ages 5 to 14 is 3.1 times that
of white children in the same age range. For American Indian
and Alaskan Native children, the fatal drowning rate is 2.3
times higher than for white children.
o Factors such as the physical environment (e.g., access to
swimming pools) and a combination of social and cultural
issues (e.g., wanting to learn how to swim, and choosing
recreational water-related activities) may contribute to the
racial differences in drowning rates. Current rates are
based on population, and not on participation. If rates
could be determined by actual participation in water-related
activities, disparity in minorities drowning rates compared
to whites would be much greater.
What factors influence drowning risk?
Lack of Supervision and Barriers. Supervision by a lifeguard or
designated water-watcher is important to protect young children
when they are in the water, whether a pool or bathtub. However,
when children are not supposed to be in the water, supervision
alone is not enough to keep them safe.
o Barriers such as pool fencing should be used to help prevent
young children from gaining access to the pool area without
caregivers’ awareness. There is an 83% reduction in the risk
of childhood drowning with a four-sided isolation pool
fence, compared to three-sided property-line fencing.
o Among children ages 1 to 4 years, most drownings occur in
residential swimming pools. Most young children who drowned
in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight
less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both
parents at the time.
Natural Water Settings (such as lakes, rivers, or the ocean). The percent of
drownings in natural water settings increases with age. When a
location was known, 65% of drownings among those 15 years and
older occurred in natural water settings.
Lack of Life Jacket Use in Recreational Boating. In 2009, the U.S. Coast
Guard received reports for 4,730 boating incidents; 3,358 boaters
were reported injured, and 736 died. Among those who drowned, 9
out of 10 were not wearing life jackets. Most boating fatalities
that occurred during 2008 (72%) were caused by drowning with 90%
of victims not wearing life jackets; the remainder were due to
trauma, hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other causes.
Alcohol Use. Alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and
adult deaths associated with water recreation and about one in
five reported boating fatalities. Alcohol influences balance,
coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun
exposure and heat.
Seizure Disorders. For persons with seizure disorders, drowning is
the most common cause of unintentional injury death, with the
bathtub as the site of highest drowning risk.
What has research found?
Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of
drowning by 88% among children aged 1 to 4 years.
Seconds count. CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to
improve outcomes in drowning victims. The more quickly
intervention occurs, the better change of improved outcomes.
A CDC study about self-reported swimming ability found that:
o Younger adults reported greater swimming ability than older
o Self-reported ability increased with level of education.
o Among racial groups, African Americans reported the most
limited swimming ability.
o Men of all ages, races, and educational levels consistently
reported greater swimming ability than women.
How can drowning be prevented?
To help prevent water-related injuries:
Supervision when in or around the Water. Designate a responsible adult to
watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming
or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool children
should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the
child at all times. Adults should not be involved in any other
distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on
the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children.
Buddy System. Always swim with a friend. Select swimming sites that
have lifeguards whenever possible.
Seizure Disorder Safety. If you or a family member has a seizure
disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water, including
swimming pools. Consider taking showers rather than using a
bathtub for bathing.
Learn to Swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from
drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons,
constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and
barriers, such as pool fencing, to prevent unsupervised access are
Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for
paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in
Do Not Use Air-Filled or Foam Toys. Do not use air-filled or foam toys,
such as "water wings", "noodles", or inner-tubes, in place of
life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not
designed to keep swimmers safe.
Avoid Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming,
boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising
If you have a swimming pool at home:
Four-Sided Fencing. Install a four-sided pool fence that completely
separates the house and play area of the yard from the pool area.
The fence should be at least 4 feet high. Use self-closing and
self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out
of reach of children. Also, consider additional barriers such as
automatic door locks or alarms to prevent access or notify you if
someone enters the pool area.
Clear the Pool and Deck of Toys. Remove floats, balls and other toys from
the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children
are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.
If you are in or around natural bodies of water:
Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or
boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes
Use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets when boating,
regardless of distance to be traveled, size of boat, or swimming
ability of boaters.
Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored
beach flags , which may vary from one beach to another.
Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents (e.g., water
that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and
moving in a channel away from shore). If you are caught in a rip
current, swim parallel to shore; once free of the current, swim
DID YOU KNOW? The Leading Causes of Summer Injuries & Deaths in the
Marine Corps are:
Drowning / Water Activities
Team & Contact Sports
The beginning of summer typically means it’s time to play ball, go
fishing, hiking, camping, or simply relax and have a backyard barbecue
with family and friends. Whatever you are into, apply risk management
when planning each and every summertime activity. Most of the things
that can go wrong in off-duty activities are easy to anticipate and
avoid. A few smart decisions go a long way toward maintaining our
Marine Corps combat readiness. Remember, our forces are affected just
as drastically by an off-duty mishap as by one occurring at work or in
combat. The summertime season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, are
typically when more off-duty mishaps and traffic deaths occur than any
other time of the year. It’s a period when many Marines are on the
road traveling from one duty station to the next, riding or buying
motorcycles with little to no recent experience, visiting family,
attending beach parties, cookouts and other summer events. Combining
summer fun with alcohol consumption, hot weather, not enough rest and
high-risk activities is a receipt for disaster. As a Marine, you have
the responsibility to prepare for and go into combat at any time. At
home, you have a mission on a more personal level to be there for your
family, friends, fellow Marines and to prevent tragedies that occur
when people do not manage risk and make poor decisions.
Other surveys that can be utilized by Commanders for anonymous
feedback from their unit or Command. Surveys are specifically designed
and tailored to help spot deficiencies and plan for pre-summer safety
events and operational pauses. SemperFiSurveys.org also provides Issue
Papers, which highlight and provide analysis of current problems
identified in recent anonymous survey answers. In particular, Issue
Paper #33 identifies the Top 10 summertime recreational and off-duty
activities in which Marines participate, potentially injuring
themselves or others. One tool commanders can use to assist in
summertime mishap prevention is the Ground Climate Assessment Survey
System (GCASS). Surveys and Issue papers at www.semperfisurveys.org
include PMV, Off Duty Rec, Drinking & Driving, and many others.
Once Again, we encourage you to review the “Marine Corps Traffic
Safety Program”, (MCO 5100.19E) and the (MCO 5100.30A) Off Duty
Recreation Order. Collectively we can collectively raise the bar in
awareness, reduce risk and maintain a high level of readiness 24/7!
Click on the link for more tips.