Now that it seems like we have the summer we've earned (after all of the gray days this winter), and one of the joys of the warmer weather is spending time around the lakes and rivers of Western Washington. With that in mind, it's important to put safety first around rushing waters, waves and those sort-of-sandy beaches. Here are 10 Safety Tips and Hazards to look out for near water's edge:
1) Fast moving currents in rivers and oceans can sneak up on you. You can't see them but they can quickly sweep you away. Look for warning signs and if you're visiting an area you haven't been to before, do your research.
2) Sudden changes in tide. Even strong swimmers may not have the muscle power needed to get back to shore when the tides go out. You could even be trapped in a sandbank when it sweeps in. Try to familiarize yourself with the tide times.
3) Hidden depths - the sand and gradients can fall away very quickly in rivers, lakes and oceans. Carefully test the ground in front of you and don't swim in areas you aren't completely familiar with or haven't tested. Be sure not to dive in unknown waters.
4) Dangerous objects often lurk beneath the surface. Junk, rocks, stinging and other hostile creatures threaten your safety. Ideally, swim in clear water and frequently glance down immediately in front of you.
5) The chill factor. Rivers start their journeys from icy water (often including melting snow) and even ocean water can be much colder than you expect. This can cause sudden cramps and even hypothermia. If the water's cold, don't swim too long, or avoid it altogether. You should also note that babies under a year old can't regulate their body heat properly.
6) Man or woman overboard! On boat, ski-doos, and jet-skis you run the risk of capsizing or falling and ending up overboard. Avoid risky behavior and showing off and be sure to always wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket.
7) Losing sight - it's easy to keep an eye on kids at the swimming pool in your backyard or the local public pool. In a wide open river or lake, that's a bit more of a challenge. Be sure to issue clear boundaries and keep a close eye on those not-so-strong swimmers.
8) Wave power. Waves can vary dramatically from one to the next, especially with changing winds and tide conditions. Be sure you are well away of your surroundings when splashing in the waves.
9) Watch the sunshine. Breezes coming off of the water often mask how warm and sunny it is outside. Avoid sunburns by applying sunscreen frequently - especially on those that are going in and out of the water.
10) Not knowing how to swim is a danger as well. Teach kids basic water safety, and how to swim, and bit of first aid before they head out into the water.
Safety in the sunshine and in the waves is important to enjoying a day near the water. Hopefully we will have many days to enjoy the (not-so) warm waters and sunshine in the area.