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Following safety guidelines can prevent water-related accidents

By Sean Bowlin | 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs | June 3, 2009

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — When the weather in Texas heats up, people naturally congregate around water. Hanging out at the pool, the lake, on the banks of a river or at a coastal beach during a baking-hot day is a great way to stay cool. 

However, according to KidsHealth.org, for people between the ages of 5 and 24, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death. For Randolph Air Force Base's population, the numbers support that threat to personal safety. 

"Statistics," said Linda Howlett, 12th Flying Training Wing ground safety manager, "show the biggest potential for a fatal mishap involving a member of the Randolph community is a privately owned motor vehicle. The next biggest threat for a fatal or serious mishap is water-related activities."

But most water-related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe. 

Buddy up while swimming 

First, when swimming, "buddy up." Always swim with a partner. Even experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps, which might make it difficult to get out of the water. When people swim together, they can help each other. To register for swim lessons at Randolph, call ITT at 652-5640. 

Remember - if you're not a good swimmer or you're just learning to swim, don't go in water that's so deep you can't touch the bottom. If you're a good swimmer, watch friends who aren't as skilled. If it seems like they, or you, are getting tired or a little uneasy, suggest that you swim in places supervised by a trained lifeguard. 

Swimming in an open body of water -- a river, lake, or ocean -- is different from swimming in a pool. You need more energy to handle the currents and other conditions in the open water. 

If you find yourself in a current, don't panic. Don't fight it. Swim with it, gradually heading back to shore as you do so. Even a very good swimmer who tries to swim against a strong current will wear out. Do your research -- know where not to swim. Talk to beach lifeguards about it before entering coastal waters. 

Also, exercise care about diving. Diving injuries can cause permanent spinal cord damage, paralysis, and in some cases even death. Protect yourself by only diving in areas that are known to be safe, such as the deep end of a supervised pool. If an area is posted with "No Diving" or "No Swimming" signs, pay heed. 

Learn CPR 

Also, learn CPR. Many organizations offer classes. One such San Antonio location is Mastertrain.org. Another way for Randolph Airmen and Department of Defense civilian employees to find out about CPR lessons is to talk to your group's CPR representative or to call Maj. Terri Fisher at the 12th Medical Group at 652-7081. 

Sunburns 

Also, watch the heat of the sun. Sun reflecting off the water or off sand can intensify the burning rays. You might not feel sunburned when the water feels cool and refreshing, but the pain will catch up with you later -- so remember to reapply sunscreen frequently. 

Hydrate properly 

Drink plenty of fluids. It's easy to get dehydrated in the sun, particularly if you're active and sweating. Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, or nausea can be signs of dehydration and overheating. 

Responsible drinking 

Alcohol is involved in numerous water-related injuries and up to half of all water-related deaths. The statistics for teenage men are particularly scary: half of all adolescent male drownings are tied to alcohol use. Remember -- when it involves boating, alcohol and water still don't mix. One-third of boating deaths are alcohol related. Alcohol distorts a person's judgment no matter where they are -- but that distortion is even greater on the water. Because there are no road signs or lane markers on the water and the weather can be unpredictable, it's important to be able to think quickly and react. If you're drinking, this can be almost impossible. 

Safe boating 

Aboard watercraft, it's important to note that more people die in boating accidents every year than in airplane crashes or train wrecks. If you are going to go boating, make sure the captain or person handling the boat is experienced and competent. Everyone on the boat should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, whether the boat is a large speedboat or a rowboat; it's like wearing a helmet while biking. To take the required boater's safety course before renting a boat from the RAFB Marina at Canyon Lake, call 12th Services Division outdoor recreation at 652-5268. 

Before leaving the dock on a boat, tell somebody on land your destination and how long you'll be out. Have a radio to check the weather. Water conducts electricity, so if you hear a storm warning, get off the water quickly. If using jet skis or personal watercraft, follow the same rules as you do for boating. 

"Whether on a boat, lake, river, coastal beach or in a pool, water-related activities are a great way to socialize and relax," Ms. Howlett said."Don't let paying attention to safety turn you off. Being prepared will make you feel more comfortable and in charge."