NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In Tennessee, Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the summer season, full of fun activities with your family and friends. However, the season also brings the potential for safety issues, including swimming.
Members of the Nashville Fire Department (NFD), the Nashville Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are currently working together to find a missing swimmer on Percy Priest Lake.
In hopes of preventing similar situations over the holiday weekend, NFD and Nashville OEM shared some advice from the American Red Cross about water safety.
According to officials, being “water competent” in natural water requires more knowledge and skills than in the pool. Therefore, if you plan on spending time near a lake, a river, a stream, or some other natural water environment, you should beware of the following:
- Unexpected changes in air or water temperature
- Thunder and lightning
- Leave the water immediately
- If you’re outside, avoid open areas; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects
- Stay inside an enclosed area for at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap
- Fast-moving currents, waves, and rapids, even in shallow water
- Hazards like dams, underwater obstacles, or rocks and debris
- Vegetation, animals, and fish
- Drop-offs that can unexpectedly change water depth
- Other people’s activities in the same water, such as boating
No matter what type of water you’re in, officials emphasized the importance of establishing and enforcing rules for safe swimming:
- Make sure every family member learns the basic skills of water competency through swimming lessons: being able to enter the water, get a breath, stay afloat, change position, swim a distance, and get out of the water safely
- Enter the water feet first, using caution for unknown or shallow water
- Only dive in water that is clearly marked as safe for diving, is at least 9 feet deep, and has no underwater obstacles
- Do not enter the water from a height, such as a bridge or a boat
- Be careful when you’re standing to avoid being knocked over by currents or waves
- Swim sober
- Avoid distractions — such as reading or using a cell phone — and stay sober when supervising others
- Swim with a buddy
First responders also recommend educating yourself on what to do in a water emergency – including how to help someone in trouble in the water, call for emergency medical services, and perform CPR.
This knowledge is especially important if you plan on spending time around children.
According to officials, babies under the age of 1 are more likely to drown at home. In addition, 87% of drowning fatalities among kids younger than 5 happen in home pools or hot tubs, usually owned by relatives or friends.
You are encouraged to use layers of protection to prevent drowning, such as barriers blocking access to water, life jackets, and close supervision of children.
If your child goes missing, check the water first because just a few seconds can make a difference when it comes to preventing disability or death, experts said. Also, if a lifeguard is present, alert them right away.
For more water safety tips, check out the American Red Cross website.