Water safety should be top priority

As warmer weather approaches, it is important to stay safe this summer. Water safety is a top priority for adults and children throughout the year. With the rising water levels in local rivers, lakes and streams, it is important to practice safety when in and around water.

Here are some safety tips to practice when in and around the water:

Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.

Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.

Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Parents or guardians of young children should be within an arm’s reach.

Children and adults should not engage in breath holding activities.

Swimming, canoeing and floating on inner tubes in natural waterways is a summertime tradition in Iowa. But rivers are dynamic systems that change with high flows and have obstacles hidden just beneath the water surface.

To reduce the risk while enjoying Iowa rivers, there are a few simple steps to follow:

Wear a lifejacket. It will make all the difference if you step into deeper or faster-flowing water than you expect. Most drowning victims in river incidents were not wearing a life jacket.

Avoid areas near dams

Avoid getting in the water – swimming, wading, or boating – near low-head dams. Unexpected “roller” currents at dams are related to an average of 1.5 river fatalities per year.

Using drugs or alcohol reduces judgment. Alcohol is a factor in more than half of all drownings.

Avoid obstacles

Downed trees are common in rivers and can act like kitchen sink “strainers,” catching people and holding them in it. Other obstacles like bridge piers, scrap metal, or clusters of rocks or concrete can be hazardous in similar ways. Also avoid wading in fast water.

Set the example for your kids

Be vigilant with kids in rivers, make sure they wear their life jackets before getting in the water, and explain to them the other safety points on this list.

The best advice would be to stay out of Rivers or streams as they can be unsafe at any level. Be safe and have fun!

Scott Johnson is the acting fire chief of the Marshalltown Fire Department. Contact him at 641-754-5751