Experts remind swimmers of water safety in hot weather

June 19, 2012 2:56:11 PM PDT
As millions of people flock to Chicago area's lakes and beaches to beat the heat, experts warn residents to stay safe in the water this summer.

Taking a plunge on a steamy day is the way to go. But even with lifeguards closely watching from all directions, parents still keep an eye on their kids.

"We just keep the water to our waist because we can't swim, just make sure we are close to the sand," said Theodore Williams, parent.

"I think people who are visitors or who don't come to the beach often look at the lake like a calm pond, and it's not. You have to either know how to swim or know how to get out when it's dangerous," said Beth Vlerick, parent.

That was the case Monday a swimmer at Addison and the lakefront had to be rescued when the winds kicked in. And in northwest Indiana, a man went under after winds blew away his raft.

The Coast Guard says one of the biggest mistakes swimmers and boaters make is not checking the weather before they go out because it can change on a dime.

"It doesn't matter what type of swimmer you are," said James Strempel, U.S. Coast Guard. "The only suggestion that I have to people is swim in the appropriate areas. Go to the beach. Make sure there is a live guard around, you know, somewhere where you're not actually swimming alone in the event something does happen."

The American Red Cross helps train Chicago lifeguards, including Stephanie Weiser and Keenan Whitemer. They say the biggest mistake they see swimmers make is underestimating the kind of water they are in. They suggest swimmers listen to their bodies. If you're getting tired, take a break. If not, stay calm.

"If you do get in a situation where you're stuck out there, the best thing you can do is call for help and not try to overexert yourself trying to get in, because the time you do start calling for help, it's too late and by the time the guards get there, something has happened," said Weiser.

Several incidents involve people who are on boats and get off the boats to take a swim. The Coast Guard says in that situation is boaters should make sure everybody onboard is wearing a life jacket. Also, if you're on a boat, they say have a float plan; make sure that someone knows exactly where you're going in the lake so if you are in trouble, the Coast Guard knows exactly where to find you.


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