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NEWS | June 9, 2017

Know the risks to stay safe in the water this summer

By Airman Dillon Parker 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

(Editor’s note: This story is part of a series focused on educating the Joint Base San Antonio community on safety habits while participating in summer activities. Our hope is to reduce the amount of injuries, incidents and accidents as it relates to activities typically done during the summer season.)

Whether boating, swimming or participating in water sports, it is important for service members and their families to be aware of the risks and stay safe.

More than 3,500 people in the Unites States die annually from unintentional drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, some of the factors that lead to drowning risks include:

• Lack of swimming ability among adults and children.

• Lack of barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent young children from accessing pool areas without supervision.

• Lack of close supervision; drownings can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water, such as bath- tubs, swimming pools, buckets, and even in the presence of lifeguards.

• People of different ages drown in different locations. For example, most children ages 1 to 4 drown in home swimming pools. The percentage of drownings in natural water settings – including lakes, rivers and oceans – increases with age.

• Alcohol use; 70 percent of water recreation deaths among adults and adolescents involve alcohol use in 2015.

Kenyon Luthi, Occupational Safety and Health manager at the 37th Training Wing Safety Office, offers some tips for staying safe while swimming this summer:

  • Swim only in authorized places. Unauthorized areas are unauthorized for a reason.  Most likely there are hidden dangers that can kill you.
  • Never swim alone. The buddy system does save lives.
  • Know the depth of the water before you dive in.
  • Don’t drink when you swim. Alcohol and water are a deadly combination.    
  • Learn to swim.

“The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around water is to learn how to swim,” according to Gilbert Resendez, a safety specialist at the 502nd Air Base Wing Safety Office.

The water can be especially dangerous for children, said Resendez, who urges parents to stay vigilant when at a pool or beach and keep a close watch on kids in the area, even if they know how to swim.

“Children can never ever be left alone (around any body of water),” said Resendez. “Make sure they wear their life jackets and never let them out of your eyesight. It’s important to know that children can drown in as little as two inches of water and that rattlesnakes can swim, also.”

“Whether you’re at the pool, the lake or the ocean, lifeguards can’t watch everybody,” he added.

Edward Mesa, another safety specialist at the 502nd ABW Safety Office, imparted some safety tips for boating, a popular activity in South Texas which has led to unintentional drownings. Mesa added any service member who wants to rent and operate equipment or be involved in water sports is required to take some form of safety training, which can be provided at any Joint Base San Antonio Safety Office or Outdoor Adventure Center.

“It’s about taking care of our people in the Air Force,” said Resendez. “We don’t want Airmen or their families getting hurt so that’s why these safety courses are required.”

“Most importantly (before operating a marine vehicle) make sure you’re familiar with the marina and lake rules for whatever body of water you’re on,” said Mesa. “Such as which items you’re required to have when on the lake like, tow ropes, flashlights or radios.”

“You’re required to wear a life jacket if you’re under the age of 18,” said Mesa. “But a good boat operator will make sure everyone has one on.”

For more information on water safety, contact the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Aquatic Center at 210-221-4887; The JBSA-Lackland Skylark Aquatics Center at 210-671-2413; or the JBSA-Randolph South Pool, at 210-652-2053.

The JBSA-Lackland Outdoor Adventure Center offers a 95-minute course on basic boating procedures Mondays and Thursdays at 1 p.m., and Tuesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m. Call 210-925-5532 for more information.