Water Safety Tips to Keep in Mind as Hot Weather Approaches

Sean Wu // The Watchdog

Every year there are a number of drownings around lakes near Bellevue. Sadly, most recently, a Bellevue College student drowned a couple weekends ago at Lake Sammamish State Park. It is important to know that just because it is warm outside does not mean the water is the same. While in the water, you can experience cold shock, cold incapacitation, cramps or hypothermia. Even when you get out of the water, you can experience after-drop, where you get increasingly cold and faint after leaving the water. You are able to check on the water temperatures in the lake buoy data. Before getting in the water, opt for a warmer swimsuit or wetsuit and know the landscape of where you will be swimming.

As for basic water safety, know your capabilities and limitations. This means knowing how good of a swimmer you are, your physical fitness and any medical conditions. If you would like to improve your swimming skills, do not be afraid to take swim classes. Additionally, always go swimming with a friend or family member so that someone knows your location, especially since there are not many lifeguards on watch. It is also important to never swim intoxicated, as you are not able to sense danger, which increases the risk in water.

In the event that you are in distress, there are many hand signals you can use to communicate your situation to someone by the shore. To ask for help, wave your arm side-to-side in a wide arc. If you are feeling fine, you can tap the top of your head. Something to be very aware of when you are swimming is your body temperature. To signal you are cold, cross your arms and rub them up and down in a shiver manner. 

Regardless of your swimming capabilities, life jackets reduce the risk of drowning. The U.S. Coast Guard provides many resources, including how to choose the right life jacket. First and foremost, find one that suits your type of activities and that you will actually wear. The life jacket should help keep your head above water, so make sure it fits properly. If it’s too big, the life jacket will ride up around your face, but if it’s too small, it will not be able to keep you afloat.

Additionally, beaches have had to be closed because of low staffing in lifeguards, with Seattle having only roughly 39 percent of the needed amount. If you are interested in applying to be a lifeguard, the Seattle Parks & Rec will be very happy.