Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Water Safety at the Jersey Shore

As the summer season winds down, we’re heading away from the many beaches, and toward drier fall activities. Although we’re heading away from the water, we shouldn’t lose sight of the dangers that can lurk on the many beaches along the Jersey Shore. New Jersey has roughly 130 miles of coastline that offer everything from boardwalks and fishing to swimming and surfing, and with all those activities come the risk of drowning. This is not to say that the beaches are dangerous, but safety should always be a concern whenever you get near the water.

The CDC reports that ten people die each day from unintentional drowning, and roughly two in ten are children aged 14 and younger. Additionally, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury and death in the US. Roughly 81 percent of water incidents are attributed to riptides – strong, narrow currents that form as waves and travel from deep to shallow water. Riptides move away from the shore and anyone getting caught in one could be easily pulled into deep water. Although many beaches have lifeguards on duty, it is important for you to understand what to do if you, or someone you know, are caught in a riptide, as well as how to administer CPR in the event of drowning.

Responding to a Riptide

For many people, the first response is to fight against the tide to remain close to shore. While this might seem like a reasonable reaction, doing so can actually make the situation worse. Riptides are so strong that even a Michael Phelps-level swimmer can be easily overcome. Fighting against the current will actually tire you out, making you unable to return to shore once you are out of the current’s grip. That exhaustion will make you more prone to drowning. The following steps can actually increase your chances of escaping the riptide safely:

1.  Remain as calm as possible. Panic can lead to poor decision making;

2.  Riptides are shaped like a funnel with a wide base at the shore that tapers to a narrow neck, then widens to a head at the deep end. Swim along the coastline, which will take you across the current instead of against it, and eventually out of the riptide. Keep your eye on the coastline to make sure you are swimming in the right direction;

3.  When you are out of the riptide, swim toward the shore.

If you are unable to swim across the riptide, remain calm and float on your back or tread water and let the tide carry you out until you either exit the tide naturally, or are able to start swimming across. Always keep your eyes on the coastline.

If you are unable to escape the tide at all, draw attention to yourself by waving your arms and yelling to shore.

If you see someone else stuck in a riptide, do not attempt to enter the water to help. Call 911 or find a lifeguard.

It’s also a good idea to be aware of the conditions that could cause riptides, such as offshore storms.

Finally, you should always take care never to swim on a beach that is deserted or does not have a lifeguard on duty.

Learning CPR

CPR, or Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, is not only handy in drowning situations, but in any situation where someone might stop breathing. You can find several online CPR references for adults and children, but they won’t give you all the information you need. CPR is a delicate procedure that you can only really learn through practice and there are several CPR classes in NJ that can teach you the correct way to administer adult, child, and even infant CPR.

The great thing about these classes is that they are offered year-round, which means you can earn your CPR certification during the off-season and be prepared when you head back to the beaches in the summer.

If you do choose to get CPR certification, you will need to keep it up to date by taking refresher courses every year or so. This is because the America Red Cross is constantly updating the procedure to make it safer, more efficient, and save more lives

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

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