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Play it safe around water at all times
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The lakes, rivers, canals and ponds hardly seem tempting to swim in at this time because of the unusually cool temperatures, but summer is almost here and the weather is sure to become hot again. And when it does warm up, the huge snow pack in the mountains will send ice cold waters rushing here through rivers and streams into our valley.

Swimming, boating and other water sports always require the participants to be careful, but this year the threats to personal safety are even greater. The rivers in our region are already flowing high and fast with very cold water. There are trees, brush, garbage and other hazards in the rivers as well, so until there is a lower flow rate and it warms up, it is best to stay out of the water -- unless people have white water training and are wearing the proper gear like life jackets and wet suits.

Canals are always off-limits, since it is illegal to enter them.They have steep walls making it hard to climb out, where there are bridges and drops the water is particularly dangerous, and the water usually moves at a swift pace. Canals are dangerous and no matter how hot it gets, people should never swim or play in them.

The lake water in this area is also colder than usual at this time, and they are filled to capacity. The rivers generally course their way through lakes at one or more points, so much debris has also been deposited in the lakes. This debris creates hazards for boaters, but it is also possible for swimmers to get hung up on submerged trees, logs or limbs.

The ocean, while not nearby, is a favorite destination for many people. It brings its own hazards with the waves, rip tides, steep shorelines, dangerous marine life and the like. Before entering the ocean, watch the waves for at least fifteen minutes to see if there are "sleeper waves" (large, unexpected waves that seem to come out of nowhere), and watch for holes that may cause a person to trip and be carried away with the current. The ocean is no place for people in poor health or anyone else who is unfamiliar with its hazards or who does not possess strong swimming skills.

Water safety for kids is really important! Drowning is the second most common cause of death from injuries among kids under the age of 14. And kids do not have to be in deep water to drown; it can happen in just a few inches of water when, for example, one falls and gets knocked out face down. I am a firm believer that swimming should be taught at the earliest possible age as an essential life's tool. Kids can learn to swim as infants, and there are programs in this area that provide that kind of training. Regardless if a child can swim or not, they should always wear a life vest or jacket in or around the water. I have personally witnessed the aftermath of child drowning cases, all of which could have easily been prevented. The pain and agony of the parents, family and friends is indescribable. And in addition to life vests, kids should be watched 100 percent of the time, without interruption, when they are playing in the water. In just seconds, one can slip underwater.

Alcohol and water sports are never a safe mix, yet I know that this common sense rule is almost never followed. I know of cases when a person has fallen asleep from drinking too much and ends up rolling off the deck of a boat or dock and then drowns. Alcohol impairs peoples' thinking and physical skills, and since water requires more than just routine attention, it should be left out of the boating and water sports equation.

Finally, there is the issue of being prepared. All persons should take a CPR and First Aid course if possible. Parents and siblings, especially, should have these skills in case of drowning or other injuries. Most water sports take people away from the city, so emergency services will take longer to arrive when needed. You should have the basic life saving skills to use while waiting for emergency medical responders.

Have a great summer!