The heat that's making a return to Clark County is sure to boost attendance at Clark County's regional parks, where residents and visitors go to swim, boat and enjoy the water. But even on hot days, many rivers and lakes in Southwest Washington remain very cold in early summer.
Cold water -- especially when high or swift -- can immobilize even the strongest swimmers in minutes. If your 4th of July plans include a trip to the beach, here are some tips to keep you and your family safe:
• When possible, choose a supervised area with trained lifeguards. In May, the Board of Clark County Commissioners voted to resume funding for lifeguards at Klineline Pond after a three-year hiatus. The county is currently seeking qualified applicants to fill the 10 openings in an effort to have lifeguards on duty at Klineline Pond this summer.
• Know the water: Washington state waters are cold enough to cause hypothermia even on the hottest summer day. Hypothermia can weaken even the strongest swimmer.
• Know your limits: Drowning often happens when a person tires while swimming.
• Wear a life jacket when swimming anywhere without lifeguards or whenever you boat, jet ski, go tubing or do other water sports. Another safety feature at Klineline Pond is the Safe Kids Life Jacket Loaner station. About a dozen life jackets in various sizes, infant through adult, are available for free while swimmers cool off and play in Klineline Pond. Users are asked to return
life jackets to the loaner station before leaving the park.
• Make sure children are wearing life jackets. Inflatable toys and mattresses will not keep children safe. By law, children ages 12 or younger must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket or vest on all vessels 18 feet or shorter.
• Never leave children unsupervised in or near the water, even for a minute. Drownings happen swiftly and silently.
• Always avoid alcohol when swimming or boating.
• Avoid swimming in potentially dangerous areas, such as fast flowing rivers or ocean beaches with riptides.
• Don't dive into shallow water or unfamiliar swimming holes.
• Cover your spa when not in use. Ponds, 5-gallon buckets, and wading pools are also drowning hazards for young children.
For additional information on swimming pool safety, visit http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/WaterRecreation/PoolSafety.aspx.
Don Strick is public information officer for Clark County Public Health.