The New York State Division of Consumer Protection and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) remind parents and guardians of the importance of year-round water safety. As the hot weather sets in, many families head to swimming pools, beaches and lakes, but it is imperative to pay special attention to these safety tips to prevent accidents.
The Division of Consumer Protection is encouraging parents to enroll their children in swimming lessons, as the most basic swimming skills can help keep a child safe in the water. In addition, recent data from the US Swimming Foundation shows that children in some communities continue to have no or disproportionally low swimming ability. Many municipal pools and community centers offer free or low-cost swimming lessons, and everyone is encouraged to learn how to swim.
Lifeguards are vital in protecting millions of swimmers at New York State Park beaches and pools each year. Governor Kathy Hochul announced a pay increase for State Park lifeguards, which is helping address lifeguard shortages to protect New Yorkers enjoying summer by the water, and to ensure the Parks remain open and safe.
“As the summer heat arrives, the first thing that comes to mind for many families is to cool off by the water, but we must be cautious for our children’s safety,” said New York State Secretary of State, Robert J. Rodriguez, who oversees the New York Division of Consumer Protection. “Vigilant adult supervision is critical to safeguard children when they are near the water, and especially in unattended areas. Basic swimming lessons can save lives, and I urge all New Yorkers to follow these recommendations to ensure summertime is safe and fun for all.”
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “New York State’s pools and beaches offer great opportunities to cool off during hot summer days. Our park staff and lifeguards work hard to keep our visitors safe. Please follow the direction of lifeguards and staff and to adhere to park regulations keep you, your family and fellow park visitors safe as you swim in New York State parks.
“It’s so important that parents, guardians, those supervising, and everyone else be as attentive as possible when young children are in or near the water,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “Never leave children unattended in or around swimming pools, beaches, or any bodies of water, as it only takes a few seconds for a child to drown or be seriously injured. This summer—with many children behind on swim instruction because of the pandemic—we urge adults to pay close attention to their children while swimming, and to ensure they receive appropriate instruction if possible. Taking these swim safety precautions will help your family stay safe this summer.”
Safety tips for ALL bodies of water:
- Adult Supervision. This is the number one way to prevent drowning. Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate a Water Watcher. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone, drinking alcoholic beverages, or otherwise distracted.
- Choose bright colors. Studies show the color of one’s bathing suit can make a difference in visibility. Consider the color of your child’s swimsuit before heading to a pool, beach or lake. For light-bottomed pools, neon pink and neon orange tend to be the most visible. For lakes and dark-bottomed pools, neon orange, neon green and neon yellow tend to be the most visible.
- Identify swimmers in need of help. While we tend to think that swimmers in trouble will be waving their hands and making lots of noise, this may not always be the case. Watch out for people whose heads are low in the water (mouth submerged) or tilted back with mouth open, eyes closed or unable to focus, legs vertical in the water, or who are trying to swim but not making progress.
- Swimming Lessons. Multiple studies show swimming lessons prevent drowning. Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
- Learn CPR. Every second counts and CPR can help in an emergency.
Open water safety:
- Wear Life Jackets. Put life jackets on kids anytime they are on a boat or participating in other open water recreational activities. Personal flotation devices should always be used for children that do not know how to swim. New Yok state law requires that children under 12 wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest on a boat or water vessel. For more information on proper life jackets, go to the United States Coast Guard site.
- Choose a spot on the beach close to a lifeguard, and swim only when a lifeguard is on duty.
- Watch for warning flags and know what they mean. Green flags usually mark designated swimming areas – be sure to swim between the green flags. Yellow flags may denote a surfing beach or an advisory. Red flags indicate a danger or hazard, and no one should swim when they are shown. Flag designations may vary so be sure to understand the color coding before you dive in.
- Watch out for rip currents. Rip currents are powerful currents moving away from shore. They tend to form near a shallow point in the water, such as a sandbar, or close to jetties and piers and can happen at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes! They are the number one hazard for beachgoers and can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. If you are caught in a rip current, try to remain calm and don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, and float or tread water if you begin to tire. More from the National Weather Service, Break the Grip of the Rip!
- Beware of large waves and strong surf. Ocean swimming is different from swimming in a calm pool or lake. Large waves can easily knock over an adult. Be prepared for strong surf as well as sudden drop-offs near the shore.
- Put Up Barriers. Install appropriate safety barriers around in-home pools and spas. This includes fences, gates, door alarms and covers.
- Pool Alarms. Install a pool alarm to detect and provide notification of unattended pool access.
- Small Pools. Drain and put away smaller portable pools when not in use.
- Cover Drains. Keep children away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid them getting stuck. Children’s hair, limbs, jewelry or bathing suits can get stuck in a drain or suction opening. Also, ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards, which include drain shape, drain cover size, and rate of water flow. Learn more here.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist, and empower the State’s consumers. You may contact The Consumer Assistance Helpline at 1-800-697-1220 on Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays. You may also file a consumer complaint any time at https://dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.