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Editorial: Be a safe swimmer this summer

Summer is just getting off the ground, yet we have already heard of several drownings in the Twin Cities area. Tragic accidents happen quickly. Drowning often occurs with many people in and around swimming pools and beaches, including adults.

Recent research by Johnson and Johnson shows 88 percent of children who drowned were under adult supervision and parents are overconfident about their children's safety and abilities around water. Because drowning can occur silently and in a matter of seconds, at least one parent or adult should always be a completely focused "Water Watcher," dedicated to monitoring children playing in the water.

Pierce County has, of course, the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers at our doorstep. There are also numerous lakes and beaches within a few miles of the area, and many people now have backyard swimming pools.

The American Red Cross offers several tips worth noting as we enter the height of the summer swimming season:

--Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim.

--Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.

--In public beaches, swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.

--Read and obey all rules and posted signs.

--Children or inexperienced swimmers should take precautions, such as wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device when around the water.

--Set water safety rules for the whole family based on swimming abilities (for example, inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep).

--Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards such as deep and shallow areas, currents, depth charges, obstructions and where the entry and exit points are located. The more informed you are, the more aware you will be of hazards and safe practices.

--Use a feet-first entry when entering the water. Enter headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.

--Never leave a child unobserved around water. Your eyes must be on the child at all times. Adult supervision is recommended.

--Have a phone handy by pools so help can be summoned quickly in an emergency.

--Learn Red Cross CPR and insist baby-sitters, grandparents and others who care for your child know CPR.

--Post CPR instructions in pool areas.

--Enclose home pools completely with a self-locking, self-closing fence with vertical bars. Openings in the fence should be no more than four inches wide. The house should not be included as part of the barrier.

--Always keep basic lifesaving equipment by the pool and know how to use it. Pole, rope and personal flotation devices are recommended.

--Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children into the pool.

--Don't rely on substitutes. The use of flotation devices and inflatable toys cannot replace parental supervision. Such devices could suddenly shift position, lose air or slip out from underneath, leaving the child in a dangerous situation.

Have a fun summer in the pools and on the beaches, but let's make it a safe summer.