During the hot summer months, many people flock to the water for a little fun in the sun. Fortunately for us, Wakulla County is blessed with an abundance of water bodies which are popular recreation sites.
However, the water can be dangerous if proper safety precautions are not followed.
Water Safety Rules
Be aware of the surroundings, especially when swimming in natural bodies of water. Take heed of rapidly changing weather conditions and seek shelter when appropriate. Fast-moving currents, even in shallow water, should be avoided.
Sharp rocks or debris at the bottom of a river, pond, or lake can be hazardous. Be careful when swimming or diving where this type of debris is present.
Diving should only be done in designated places and in water at least nine feet deep and free of underwater obstacles.
Know the swimming skills of everyone present. Stronger swimmers should watch out for weaker swimmers.
Weaker swimmers should also wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. Swimming in designated swimming areas with trained lifeguards is the safest option for everyone.
Never swim alone. Always enter shallow water with caution, feet first.
Falling, jumping, or diving into the water from a height such as trees, ledges, or bridges is potentially very dangerous and should be avoided.
One thing not always considered is the potential for water-borne illnesses. Many natural bodies of water may be contaminated by animal waste, runoff, or even sewage.
Contact the state or Wakulla health departments to find out if any local water bodies are unsafe. Always avoid swallowing the water while swimming, if possible.
In Case of Emergency
No one is safe from drowning, even strong swimmers. Participation in swimming lessons can strengthen swimming skill, but do not think one lesson (or even one set of lessons) is enough to turn someone into a strong swimmer.
Like anything else, swimming takes practice to master. Just like weightlifting can strengthen muscles, continual practice can strengthen swimming ability. Make sure lessons are age-appropriate and match the swimmer’s skill level.
If someone is in trouble in the water, alert the lifeguard, if available. They are fully trained to handle a potential drowning emergency.
Learn when and how to call 9-1-1 if necessary. Keep appropriate equipment such as life jackets, cell phones, first aid kits, and reaching or throwing equipment on hand to aid someone in an emergency.
The best person to make a rescue is a trained professional. If one is not available, be careful in the attempt.
Reach out to the person with something they can grasp firmly, but maintain stability at the other end at all times. If they are beyond reach, try throwing them an object they can use to keep afloat, like a foam cooler or an inner tube.
Only enter the water wearing a life jacket, and only then, remain in the shallow part of the water where footing is more solid. Then reach out to the person with an oar, pole, or tree branch and try to pull them back towards land.
Swimming is a fun and healthy way to enjoy the summer while staying cool in the Florida heat. However, it is important to stay safe in the water. By following a few safety precautions, Wakulla’s beautiful water resources can be enjoyed safely by everyone.
Water Safety Tips from the American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety
Enjoy The Sun Safely This Year – UF/IFAS Extension Wakulla County
For more information about water safety practices, please call Samantha Kennedy at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Service at (850) 926-3931.