Drownings Can Mar a Summer Day at the Lake
Here are safety tips for users of Lake Lanier and other bodies of water during busy summer season.
Almost weekly, there is a report of a drowning in one of the area lakes. Many of the cases have been in Lake Lanier. A 17-year-old Archer High School student drowned in Lake Lanier at the start of the Memorial Day weekend. In June a man drowned following a baptism at the lake, and on July 5 two men drowned in Lake Lanier on the same day. On Tuesday (July 12) a 49-year-old Lawrenceville man drowned when he went into the lake to retrieve a ball for his children.
So far this summer, most drowning victims have been adult males. According to the Centers For Disease Control website, statistically that is not surprising. Eighty percent of drowning victims are male. Also, natural water drownings, such as in lakes, rivers or the ocean, tend to involve people over the age of 15.
According to the CDC, every day about 10 people in the United States die from unintentional drowning -- 20 percent of them children aged 14 or younger. However, drowning is the sixth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages. In 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related). An additional 496 people died from drowning in boating-related incidents.
In the case of older adolescents and adults, alcohol is often a contributing factor. Up to 50 percent of the cases in non-boating drownings involve alcohol as a contributing factor and the same can be said for about 20 percent of boating fatalities. Seizure disorders and other medical emergencies are also sometimes contributing factors in cases of adult drownings.
With lake recreation so prevalent in the area, boating accidents and drownings are a source of concern for area emergency services. Gwinnett County has its own Swift Water Rescue Team as do many of the surrounding counties with the teams often working together in rescue operations.
The CDC gives the following tips on how to cut down the risk of drowning:
- 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” defined as being 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 buddy. 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 necessary.
- Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in someone’s life.
- 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 children.
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 are dangerous.
- 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 toward shore.