The middle of summer has arrived, and with it the crazy and oppressive heat that drives us all towards water for swimming and sports. As more and more people take to the rivers and lakes of Illinois, it might be prudent to review some very basic safety facts of being in and around the water, particularly with children!
As hard to believe as it may sound, according to the US Coast Guard most drowning occurs near shore and in calm weather, and not in the storms and rough waters they produce. In fact, they say that 90% of all drowning fatalities happen in inland waters, and within a few feet of safety! So why does this happen and what can be done?

For the most part, downing happens because of a lack of safety devices, coupled with a moment’s inattention or a failure to recognize a person in distress. Safety devices do not, in fact, have to be cumbersome and difficult devices with long instructions. A simple life jacket can prevent most drowning and still allow a child to swim and play in the water comfortably. When it comes to vessels on the water and personal watercraft (like jet skis, powerboats, sailboats, etc.), you are required to have one wearable life jacket for each person on board as a minimum standard (which should be worn at all times). Kids under the age of 13 must wear it whenever the vessel is underway unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. Of course the local codes vary, but when you plan recreational water time with your family, focus on the safety of the family, and not a minimum standard required by law.

Life jackets come in different sizes and children’s are approved for specific weight categories. Type I and Type II life jackets are the best in terms of buoyancy; a Type III properly fit life jacket has slightly better range of motion for good swimmers in the right height and weight categories. Always check the labels and make sure the fit and weight requirements are met. Most sports or boating stores can assist you in the selection of the right jacket for your needs, but when in doubt, play it safe so you can play safely!