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August 2020
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Recent drownings remind us of necessity of water safety

Last weekend was particularly tragic on Georgia waters. According to news from across the state, between Friday and Sunday:

• A Rockmart middle schooler was killed in a boating accident.

• A 15-year-old drowned in the Chattahoochee River in Cobb County.

• A 17-year-old drowned at Lake Lanier.

• A four-year-old drowned at Buford Dam on Lake Lanier.

• An adult male drowned off Little Tybee Island

• A three-year-old drowned at a family pool in Macon.

Statistics kept by the National Safety Council show an annual average of 3,400 people drown in the United States – about 10 per day.

Interestingly, this figure hasn’t fluctuated much over the past couple of decades – maybe we get more safety conscious and that holds the rate down as the population grows. 

Outside of birth defects, drowning is the leading cause of death for the youngest children. Up until your mid-twenties, it is the leading cause of preventable death.

As the recent spate of deaths in Georgia shows, young children are often among those killed in water, but male teenagers are almost equally at risk.

Teenshealth.com cuts right to the point, that male teenagers and alcohol are a deadly combination that figure into many of the drownings. The website stated that half of male teenager drownings are alcohol related.

Prior to the last two deaths at Lanier, those who had drowned there this month had mostly been adult males. 11 Alive quoted the DNR as identifying the four earlier drowning victims on Lanier as being aged 59, 45 and 28 , before the 17-year-old and four-year-old last weekend. So it’s not just teens and kids.

11Alive in their report, said the DNR has reported 46 drownings statewide in 2020. Last year from January 1 to July 31, the state reported 38 drownings. 

Death by drowning is certainly nothing new. The oldest histories show people dying in waters and disciples in the Bible worried about their boat capsizing.

Nor have the precautions changed much from what frontier women told their kids, “be careful around that creek.”

The Red Cross encourages the common sense approach of learning to swim with professional lessons and then stay within your comfort zone.

Boiled down, the precautions from government and children’s health groups all include some combination of the following:

Never, ever leave kids unattended around any water. If you have a pool nearby it’s your duty to make sure it is secure against curious toddlers and adventurous teens.

Get Skilled – take swimming lessons; make your kids take swimming lessons. Even if they don’t like the water or want to go to the pool, at least ensure your children can doggy-paddle back to the side if they end up in a pool or lake some day.

Know your limits – be aware that rivers and lakes (where most of the recent drownings occurred) can be much more dangerous with currents, wakes from boats and swimmers can find themselves further from shore and in deeper water quickly without realizing it.

If you aren’t a good swimmer stick to pools with lifeguards.

Life jackets – Don’t be embarrassed to put on a quality life jacket. There are some great ones for the young swimmers that are like shirts that won’t come off and keep their heads up. Be aware that a pool float is a toy not a life-saving device.

Don’t drink and boat or swim.

Drowning and water safety are pretty common topics, maybe even boring to talk about. But think that five Georgia families since Friday have lost members (four under the age of 18), then recognize this is nothing to ignore. 

It only takes a couple of minutes to go from a fun day at the lake to a life-altering tragedy. Nothing fancy required, please use those common sense tips.