In this two-part series, “Reducing The Risk Of Childhood Drowning,” we explore tips for keeping your children safe around the water. Whether at the pool or beach, Southern California children often enjoy the water throughout the year. In the second part of the series below, we discuss how to reduce the risk of ocean drowning.
Earlier in the month, five OC children were involved in near-drowning incidents within a span of four days – prompting our short blog series on drowning. According to the Orange County Register, “the five near-drownings raise this year’s total to 57 drowning calls in Orange County.”
Whenever children are near water, their safety is always a primary concern for the adults accompanying them. However, many adults simply don’t understand how to keep children safe at the beach.
Understanding Ocean Conditions
Unlike pools and lakes, ocean conditions are always changing, affected by changing tides, rip currents, and offshore weather patterns. Because of this inconsistent nature, it is essential to understand some basic concepts about the ocean and remain constantly vigilant to shifts in conditions.
Tides – Oceans have tides that make the water’s reach on the shore, also called the tide-line, higher or lower at different times of the day; this means a spot that is dry now may be under water in a few hours. Tides shift with the moon cycle, meaning some tides are more drastic than others. It also means the timing of the tides will cycle throughout the month. Most public beaches will post the day’s tide times, so you can plan accordingly.
Terrain – The ocean floor is constantly shifting and changing, resulting in unpredictable terrain below the water. Be aware of sharp rocks, sand bars, sudden dips, and other hazards that will likely not be marked.
Waves – Waves come in from the deep ocean as a “swell” of energy. As the swell approaches shallower water, it becomes a wave. Therefore, the power and speed of waves will be dictated by the amount of energy in the ever-changing swells and ocean terrain. This means that wave conditions can change drastically within a very short period of time.
Rip Current – Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull out to sea. Sometimes they look like rivers within the ocean; other times, they look more like bubbles of “white water” pulling farther out than usual.
Flag System – The State of California (and most other states in the U.S.) uses a Lifeguard Flag System to alert beachgoers about the water conditions:
Green – Mild conditions. Small waves, and rip currents may be present.
Yellow – Moderate conditions. Larger waves with rip currents.
Red – Hazardous conditions. Large waves and dangerous conditions. Expert ocean swimmers only.
Tips For Reducing The Risk Of Drowning At The Ocean
A day at the beach is one of the delights of living in Southern California, but it poses significant risks and requires a different set of precautions for parents than a day at the pool. While there is no way to eliminate the risk completely, these essential safety tips can help to keep your children safe:
- Always be alert. Taking your eyes off children even for a minute can be the difference between life and death. If the beach is a social atmosphere for your family, pair up with other parents to make sure one or more adults are interacting with and closely monitoring children at all time without multi-tasking.
- Monitor playtime in the sand. Unlike the pool setting, ocean water is constantly moving and changing. Children need to be monitored at all times, especially when playing within 10’ of the wet sand. Remember, children do not understand waves and will chase a rolling toy.
- Equip less experienced swimmers. Inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets at all times. Note that this isn’t a replacement for supervision, but is an added safety precaution. Some floatation devices can actually be more dangerous than helpful for children. Ask us about our recommendations.
- Be in arms reach. If children are not fully competent at swimming with waves and currents, an adult should always be within arms reach. This is essential even if the child is wearing a water flotation device.
- Use the Buddy System. As older children begin to swim in the ocean without a parent, make sure they are properly using the buddy system. It is not only important to enter the water together; buddies need to know where the other person is at all times.
- Only swim in lifeguard monitored areas. Lifeguards do more than watch for drowning swimmers. They monitor the water for changing conditions and sudden hazards. Play it safe and never swim far from the lifeguard stand.
- Teach children how to swim. The best way to protect your child is to teach him or her to swim as early as possible. By improving a child’s swimming skills, you provide them with the most essential layer of protection. Swim lessons teach the life-saving skills that all people should have near the water.
- Educate children about the ocean. There are many ways to educate even young children about the how the ocean works. It’s never too early to start.
Child drowning happens quickly and silently. Read our blog on Recognizing the Quiet Signs of Drowning to dispel common myths about drowning.
Consult Your Community Swim Experts
Premier Aquatics Services provides our local community with first aid training, water safety trainings, and swim lesson programs. We are currently enrolling all age groups in our fall swim programs. Enroll your children today, and give them the skills to help avoid drowning. Click here to learn more about the Premier Aquatic’s year-round swim lesson programs.
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