Adapting to the dangers of open water

Before You 4th: Safe swimming in murky waters

If your holiday plans include open water like rivers, lakes or beaches, the number one rule? You must wear a life jacket.

"Kids can drown in as little as 10 seconds," said Nick Echtenkamp, with the Richardson Family YMCA. "That's how long it can take for them to slip below the surface. If you don't have that life jacket on, the chances that you're going to be found once you slip below the water in brown water really decrease." 

Nearly 85 percent of people who drown while boating were not wearing life jackets, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife.

The right floatation device will have a "Coast Guard Approved" label on it. The popular puddle jumpers for kids are appropriate for slow movement on water-- like kayaking or canoeing, but if your kids are on speed boats, tubing, water skiing, they need more protection.

"Just in case they fall off the boat or a tube, [a proper life vest] can't pull up," said Echtenkamp. "It's going to keep the life jacket secured on the chest; that'll keep the head above the water."

Make sure it fits nice and snug.

"A lot of times, if you have bad-fitting life jackets you'll see the shoulders will come up. That's a sign the life jacket is too loose," explained Echtenkamp. "If that happens, the head's going to drop down [under water]."

Often, the dangers with open water are what's under water.

"Underwater currents can change everything," said Echtenkamp. "Even if you see where the kid goes under water-- if the river's flowing or the tides are going, that body can move a great distance, and you have no chance of finding them."

BoatUS reports that alcohol plays a role in 50 percent of all boating accidents. So, when you're on the open water, treat it like the open road.

"You wouldn't drive your child around drunk in a car," said Echtenkamp. "We would ask that you wouldn't do it on a boat or when you're supposed to be watching them swimming as well."

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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