Water Safety

By Doug Christ

Emergency Management Director


Those lazy, hazy, hot days of summer are upon us and not much beats a dip in the pool or other body of water to cool off. Florida has many famous beaches, rivers and lakes that many families vacation at because of the natural beauty and great recreational activities. Unfortunately, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nationwide, about 10 people drown each day. Additionally, another 347 die per year in boating accidents. 

What is a person to do to beat the heat and enjoy the water with all the apparent risks? Plenty according to the American Red Cross water safety web page as a lot of of the water fatalities are preventable. Many of the steps listed below are found at http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/water-safety and I tossed in a few that fit the lifestyle here in DeSoto County.

  • Take swimming lessons.  Many organizations offer training and it is encouraged that anyone who is on or around the water to become proficient in swimming.
  • Never swim alone. Accidents do happen and if you are swimming by yourself and become disabled, the outcome could become devastating.
  • Always supervise children near water.
  • Swim where a lifeguard is present. That profession earned that name for a reason.
  • Stay hydrated.  Swimming is a demanding physical activity and you could cramp up if dehydrated. 
  • Do not swim or go boating in a thunderstorm. Lightning sure knows how to ruin outside activities, but it will win any contest with a human.
  • Keep your watercraft’s safety devices up to date and in proper working condition.
  • Do not use watercraft in close proximately to swimmers.
  • Take a boater safety class.

A few rules for DeSoto County and probably many other similar locations.

  • Be aware of wildlife. Yes, we live in a rural area and poisonous snakes and alligators live in the water. 
  • Never dive in to an unknown body of water. For those of us who grew up swimming in Peace River, it didn’t take too many times jumping in before you hit something like a tree stump that floated into the same spot you were diving into yesterday. That and underwater sandbars tend to move around and now that deep water hole only has a few inches of water. 
  • Watch out for boats. The river has many twists and curves that hinder seeing long range. Boaters simply cannot see swimmers or even other boats in time to avoid collisions.

But what if the unthinkable does happen? Most modern cellphones and 911 systems can pin point your location, even on the river or a lake. Make that 911 call ASAP and try and provide as much information as you can. Still, it will take time before help arrives and it will be up to you to provide lifesaving techniques to the victim.  CPR and basic first aid classes are easy to find and reasonably priced. DeSoto County Fire Rescue offers the classes every other month and Deputy Chief Moran is the instructor. He can be reached at 863-993-4842, ext. 15 for scheduling.  CPR with Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training is one class for $25 and basic first aid is offered separately for another $25.

DeSoto County, along with many other jurisdictions, has a well-trained Public Safety Department and the last thing these guys and gals want to do is CPR on a drowning victim or conduct a water search and rescue.  Go out and enjoy the water in whatever method you choose, but do so in a safe manner and keep in mind the dangers involved.