This week has been a great example of why Galveston in the fall is such a great combination. The water still hovers just over 70 degrees and the days have been beautiful. We still run patrol vehicles and are scheduled to do that until Dec. 1, at which time we’ll focus on rebuilding lifeguard towers, repairing equipment, replacing signs and rescue boxes that need it and a thousand other small things we need to do to prepare for the next season.
Of course, if this type of weather comes back around, we’ll divert our resources back up to the beach front to make sure everyone is OK. We also continue to respond to emergency calls day or night just as we do the rest of the year, so if you need us for something urgent just dial 911.
We responded with our partners in the police, fire and EMS to a pool incident earlier this week. That call reminded me that, although we specialize in beach and surf lifesaving, there is a broader world of water safety. At times we are so preoccupied with our primary concern of rip currents and other beach related issues that we neglect to stress the importance of some very basic safety advice.
As the president of the United States Lifesaving Organization, which specializes in open water lifeguarding, one of my duties is to sit on the board of a really wonderful group called Water Safety USA (www.watersafetyusa.org). Water Safety USA is a roundtable of long standing national nonprofit and governmental organizations with a strong record of providing drowning prevention and water safety programs, including public education.
Part of our mission is to tease out commonalities in water safety messaging between the 14 members and encourage them to put out information the same way. That way the public will not receive so many similar messages that are presented in different ways. Unified messaging is much more effective and hopefully more likely to stay in people’s minds.
At this point there are two main messages Water Safety USA promotes. The first is “Water Safety — It’s Learning To Swim and So Much More.” The importance of learning to swim is fairly obvious, but the idea is that it’s part of a larger framework of skills and information that keep you safe when in or around the water. The second is “Designate a Water Watcher, Supervision Could Save a Life.” The idea here is that when children are swimming, there should be an older responsible person whose sole responsibility is to watch them and make sure they’re safe. The third message will be released in the spring and has to do with the use of life jackets when in or around the water.
Remember that backyard pools and other bodies of water claim many more lives each year than the beach. And winter does not mean that you can drop your guard. Supervision, barrier devices and learning to swim are key components of making sure water is what it should be — something to enjoy safely.