State Police Urges Water Safety

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Yesterday members of the Massachusetts State Police Underwater Recovery Team and members of the Massachusetts Environmental Police held a media event at the Connecticut River in Chicopee at the Medina Street Boat Ramp. They held a similar event last week at Carson Beach in South Boston. As a service to the public, members of the MSP Dive Team provided instruction and tips on safe practices for swimmers and boaters. A State Police Diver gave a demonstration on two rescue scenarios from an Environmental Police vessel. As in years past, the coming of summer brings a significant increase in calls for service related to swimming and boating.
In an effort to prevent water-related tragedies, the MSP divers stressed the three laws of water safety: Learn to swim! Never swim alone! Never swim intoxicated!
The divers also reminded attendees that children are especially vulnerable around the water; toddlers can tragically drown in a matter of seconds in water that is only inches deep. The divers stressed the importance of adult supervision of children who are in or close to the water, even if the water involved is a backyard swimming pool.
Team members said that children should learn to swim at an early age. They reminded us, however, that people are never too old to learn how to swim and that overcoming fear of the water or the embarrassment of not knowing how to swim can prevent catastrophes down the road.
Even good swimmers can find themselves in peril if they swim alone. The divers stressed the benefits of the “buddy system,” reminding the public that many of the tragedies involving solo swimmers are preventable. Fatigue, strokes, heart attacks, or seizures may occur with little or no warning, and the presence of a swimming companion may prevent a medical incident from turning into a tragedy.
Ocean rip currents are a hazard at some beaches. They can push unwary swimmers off-shore and are caused by waves breaking and the water being pulled between the shallows back to deep water. Swimmers should swim sideways out of the current rather than fight against it or wait until the current has weakened before swimming ashore at a different point. Most rips are narrow. Contrary to what some believe, rip currents do not pull swimmers underwater.
The MSP divers cautioned against using flotation devices such as inflatable tubes or surfboards to access places where a swimmer could not swim on his or her own.
Some other important water safety point to consider:
Breath holding contests and extended underwater swimming is dangerous.
Prolonged periods of deep breathing may lead to hyperventilation, which may cause a person to lose consciousness in what is called shallow water black out;
When body surfing, protect your head and neck. Make sure you have at least one hand extended in front of you when body surfing;
Before diving head first into the water you should check for depth and obstructions. It is always safer to enter the water feet first;
Always wear a PFD or life jacket when boating. Over three-quarters of boating fatalities are from drowning. Even a good swimmer can slip and become unconscious before falling into the water. Many boaters who end up in the water later report they never intended to get wet. At any home pool or watering hole remember that you are the lifeguard. NEVER leave children alone anywhere near the water, even for a few seconds. Make sure your pool is completely fenced in. Ensure that pool areas are locked and there is no access from your home to the pool when you’re not there.
The Underwater Recovery Team and the Massachusetts State Police wish everyone a fun and safe rest of your summer!