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Be safe while enjoying the water

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By Marci L. Stone, MBA, EFO
Deputy Chief
Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue
     Summer is typically a good time for families and friends to gather and enjoy the variety of water related activities that Virginia has to offer.
    Whether it is at a local pool, river, pond, lake or at the Oceanside you will typically find people having fun enjoying time together in the summer sun.  With the increase in water activities during the summer months comes an increase in water related accidents. 
    Recently, Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue Special Operations Team—along with Big Island fire and emergency crews—responded to a capsized canoe on the James River where victims had to be rescued. Smith Mountain Lake Marine Fire Company routinely responds to a variety of emergencies on the Lake.  Although responders are prepared to handle water related emergencies it is important for citizens to take preventive actions to reduce their risk around water. 
    Drowning poses the highest risk of all water related emergencies.  According to safekids.org, more than 815 children ages 14 and under die as a result of unintentional drowning each year which is the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among that age group. Sadly, national statistics showed that a parent or caregiver claimed to be supervising the child in the majority of cases.    Some simple things that you can do this summer to reduce the risk of drowning is to ensure preventive measures are taken when around water include:
 • Never consume alcohol when around water.
• Always watch children when they are in or near water. When you are watching children, don’t be distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others. Watch children even if they know how to swim.
• Those who can’t swim well or can’t swim at all should wear life jackets. Arm floats and intertubes do not provide the same protection as life jackets. Learn how to properly select and wear a life jacket.
Have a phone with you to call for help if there is an emergency and know the local emergency contact number in Bedford and surrounding counties the number is 911.
• Ensure fencing around pools meet county code of 48” height and has a self-locking gate. Remove ladders from above ground pools to keep children from climbing in when not supervised.
 • Anyone that goes in or near the water should know how to swim and how to use safety and rescue equipment. “Reach, throw, row and go” is a common way to remember the actions you should take in a water emergency.  To prevent becoming a second victim, first shout for help, then “reach” use an object to try to reach out to the victim; “throw” a life vest or safety ring to the victim; “row” if the victim is to far away from the shoreline to reach or throw then use a boat to get to the victim and finally go.  Going to a victim poses a high risk to the rescuer.  Often victims will try to cling to the rescuer, which results in the rescuer becoming a victim.  If you “go” try to keep a life preserver between you and the victim so that the victim clings to the preserver.
• Teach children to never swim alone!
• Learn CPR and how to react if there is a water related emergency.
    Enjoy your summer activities and stay safe around water. For more information on accident and injury prevention visit our website at www.bcofr.com.