CATES: Water safety

By Carol A. Cates, MSN, MBA, RN

Chief Nursing Officer

Odessa Regional Medical Center

Memorial Day is now behind us, and the kids are out of school. Even though the season doesn’t officially change until later this month, I think we can all agree that summer is here. At the beginning of the summer season, one of the things that always comes to mind is pool and water safety.

The reason I think about this every year is because one of my dearest friends has a son who is the survivor of a near drowning event. This young man survived, but he also struggles in many areas and will continue to struggle for the rest of his life related to the brain injury he suffered from nearly drowning. To quote my friend, “People need to know so they don’t have this happen to their family.”

According to the American Red Cross, 69% of young children who drown were not expected to be in or near water. That is the biggest reason why pool and water safety need to be something we plan for ahead of time. Because drowning happens when we don’t expect.

The American Red Cross recommends this list of top things to know for pool and hot tub safety:

1) Secure your pool with appropriate barriers.

2) Designate someone specific to watch the water. When it’s everyone’s job, it easily becomes no one’s job.

3) Keep small children in arms reach when in or near water.

4) Install anti-entrapment drain covers and safety release systems to protect against people getting trapped under water by drains.

5) If a child is missing, check the water first.

The American Red Cross has a great and free water safety course on their website. I highly recommend parents and caregivers that own or plan on visiting pools, hot tubs, or other water venues take that course. The website is: That site also has several more tips to making your pool or hot tub safer. The American Red Cross also has an App on the Apple app store and Google play store called Swim. You can also get it by texting SWIM to 90999. This app shares multiple water safety tips, has fun activities to help kids become safer and better swimmers, and it helps track kids’ progress as they learn to swim.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has a top ten list for water safety:

1) Learn to swim. Water activities are safest when people are strong swimmers.

2) Take someone along. Even if you are a strong swimmer, water activities are safer and more fun when you have company.

3) Know your limits. Watch out for the “too’s,” too tired, too cold, too far, too much sun, too much hard activity.

4) Swim in supervised areas only, if lifeguards are not available, as recommended by the American Red Cross, designate a watcher.

5) Wear a life jacket when boating, jet skiing, water skiing, rafting, or fishing.

6) Stay alert to currents. Currents can change and be unpredictable. Learn to recognize dangerous currents or waves by looking for water that is a strange color, very choppy or foamy, or has noticeable debris. If you get caught in a current, swim parallel to the shore (perpendicular to the current) until you are out of it. Don’t fight the current. Piers, jetties, dams, and docks can all create unpredictable currents, so it is best not to swim around near objects.

7) Watch the weather. Lightning is attracted to the tallest object around, and on water that is likely you. If you see dark clouds or lightning, get off the water and take the fun indoors.

8) Don’t horseplay in water. Dunking and pushing easily gets out of hand.

9) Don’t dive into shallow water, or water where you don’t know the depth.

10) Don’t float where you can’t swim. Make sure you aren’t in water that is too deep or too far from the shore when you float.

I think water activities are some of the best parts of the summer. But, they also can be dangerous if we don’t think about safety. Please keep yourself and your family safe this summer by adding water safety to your “to do” list when you are planning to be in or around water.