Many people will spend the Independence Day holiday in a pool, lake, or river. It can make for a relaxing afternoon as long as you don’t relax when it comes to water safety.
Last year, 15 people drowned in Kern County, not just in river rapids, but in residential pools, calm lakes, and even canals.
Water safety experts say drowning deaths, especially those in which children are involved, are usually preventable as long as people follow a few simple rules. Parents need to take every precaution possible, even if you think your child is a strong swimmer or accustomed to being in the water.
“As a parent, you don’t want to take the risk no matter what the odds are,” said Jane Yadon with the Kern County Child Death Review team. “You wouldn’t play Russian Roulette with your kid."
Various rescue agencies held a safety demonstration Friday morning at the Kern River campgrounds near Lake Ming. Their main point? Drownings can happen to anyone, anywhere. But, in nearly every case they are preventable.
According to Sgt. Ken Smith with the Kern County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue team, four bodies were recovered from the Kern River during last year's Fourth of July holiday.
But, it’s not just the Kern River where drownings occur.
Four months ago, a two-year-old boy from south Bakersfield died when his parents lost track of him and he fell into his family’s pool.
“The problem with drownings is they're very subtle, they're silent, and they're fast,” said David Seibt with the Bakersfield Fire Department.
With that in mind, water safety experts want to share the following tips:
One, make sure to use proper flotation devices. Don’t get in the water hoping a “toy” will save you.
“You have those noodles and those tubs,” said Misty Peters, a swim instructor with American Kids Sports Center. “They are under the toy section, and the reason they are under the toy section is they are not approved for flotation.”
Peters suggests getting life vests with a Coast Guard seal on the inside instead.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of currents.
“Water's very deceiving,” said Sgt. Smith. “It's running anywhere from eight to 30 miles per hour depending on wherever you find yourself in the river.”
Additionally, do not consume alcohol in excess if you’re planning to go in the water.
Make sure you empty all above-ground, inflatable pools after children use them if they still plan to play outside.
Don’t leave any pool toys close to the edge of the pool where children who can’t swim might try to reach for them and fall in.
Of course, if you only follow one tip, make it this one: Experts say a pair of watchful eyes is the closest you can come to guaranteeing your and your child’s safety.
“There's no swim lesson, there's no life jacket that guarantees your child won't drown,” said Peters. “The best thing when anyone is in the water, adult or child, is to have that designated observer.”