(UNDATED) - As Hoosiers make trips to the pool, beach, rivers and lakes, the Indiana Department of Child Services and the Department of Natural Resources remind parents and guardians to make water safety a priority this summer.
Families are encouraged to make sure that both adults and children have the knowledge, skills and equipment they need to be safe in and around water.
"When done with proper supervision in the proper places, swimming can be a safe and healthy recreational activity for kids," said Mary Beth Bonaventura, director, Indiana Department of Child Services. "But since children generally don't have an awareness of the risks around water, it's up to the adults who care for them to help keep them safe."
Accidental drowning is avoidable with proper supervision and vigilance, said Bonaventura. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger with children 1 to 4 having the highest drowning rates. The most recent Indiana child fatality data shows that in state fiscal year 2012, eight Hoosier children died from drowning.
DNR reports 28 open water drownings so far in 2014 with 12 of the victims being 18 years old or younger.
It's important for parents and guardians to watch what their children are doing in and around the water even when lifeguards are present.
"Just learning to swim is not a successful way to prevent drowning." said DNR's Boating Law Administrator Lt. Kenton Turner. "The use of a properly fitted life jacket is the only proven method that is certain to reduce the number of Indiana drownings."
Boaters are reminded to practice safe and responsible boating, always wear a life jacket and be alert while on the water.
"We encourage all of our citizens to enjoy the rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs that Indiana has to offer. But we ask that everyone consider safety as their top priority and include a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket as part of their checklist when heading out to our DNR properties," said DNR's Law Enforcement Division Director Danny East.
DCS and DNR officials offer the following tips to help keep children safe around water this summer:
Supervision - Someone should always be actively watching children when they are in the pool. This means don't play around on your phone or get involved in a lengthy conversation while watching the kids. Drowning can happen in just a few minutes. Designate a "water watcher" to keep an eye on swimmers.
Barriers - A child should never be able to enter a pool area unaccompanied by an adult. Barriers include child-proof locks on all doors, a pool fence with self-latching and self-closing gates, as well as door and pool alarms. Pool covers may also be used but make sure it is a professional cover fitted for your pool. A simple canvas covering can be a drowning hazard and entrap a child in the water.
Swimming lessons - Children ages 4 and older should learn to swim in order to help prevent drowning. Even kids as young as 2 will benefit from taking a parent and child water orientation class. Caregivers should learn to swim as well.
Lifeguards - Swimming should only be allowed in areas with designated life guards. Ask that kids always swim with a buddy, too.
Life jackets - Children should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, particularly children with poor swimming skills. A life-preserver should also be on hand. DNR strongly recommends that all family members wear a life jacket while boating on Indiana lakes and waterways.
Diving - Teach children never to dive into oceans, lakes or rivers because they do not know what dangerous structures can lurk below the water's surface.
"Sadly, we lose children each year because they don't understand the dangers associated with water," said Bonaventura. "It's up to parents to teach them to have a healthy respect for the water and watch over them to ensure their safety."
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