One of the best perks of living in Florida is the endless amount of access we have to water. A majority of our homes come with their own pools, and many of us have at least a friend, relative, or neighbor who also has a pool. For a change of scenery, we do not have to look far to find some natural swimming options. We can take our families to the beach to cool off in the ocean, or we can take the boat out on the lake with friends for the weekend. Water is simply a way of life for those living in Florida.

However, just because swimming is common does not mean it is a non-issue for our citizens. Sometimes, familiarity can breed an unhealthy sense of carelessness. No matter how comfortable you are with swimming, you should never forget how seriously dangerous it can be for you and those around you. Just earlier this month, an 18-year-old high school student vanished after swimming with his friends at Jensen Beach. He was last seen about 150 feet yards from the shoreline. After 58 hours of searching, the U.S. Coast Guard had to suspend the active search without any sign of the student. Authorities confirmed extreme surf conditions that day with high waves breaking and very high winds. These are the warning signs that could have been crucial in saving the life of any swimmer.

Safety Tips for Florida’s Natural Bodies of Water

  • Never assume older children can swim simply because of their age. Children over the age of 5 are actually more likely to drown in natural bodies of water than those that are younger.
  • Always check the daily forecast and pay attention to safety signs or flags displayed as warnings. Usually, the level of warning will coincide with a specific color. A flag color code sign should be displayed near the main public entrances to the water.
  • Florida’s Beach Flag Signs:
    • Double Red: Danger! Water Closed to Public
    • Single Red: High Hazard, High Surf and/or Strong Currents
    • Yellow: Medium Hazard, Moderate Surf and/or Currents
    • Green: Low Hazard, Calm Conditions, Exercise Caution
    • Purple: Dangerous Marine Life (Usually Jellyfish)
  • If you sustain an injury that involves an open wound or cut, stay out of the water. Bacteria in the water can enter the wound and cause an infection.
  • If you find yourself caught in a rip current, try to swim parallel to the shoreline until you can get out of the water.
  • If you are in warm freshwater, avoid submerging your head and use nose plugs.
  • While lakes are mostly safe to swim in with the right precautions, canals should be avoided as swimming areas. Canals in Florida are known to host alligators, making this a less than ideal environment for humans to take a quick swim.

Are Swim Lessons Necessary? 

Yes, swim lessons are necessary and crucial. Already this year, a dozen Florida children have died from drowning since March. Also, swim lessons are not just for children. They can be for anyone, and it is never too late to learn how to swim. Formal swimming lessons are said to decrease the chances of drowning by almost 90%. Contact your local YMCA or American Red Cross to inquire about swim lessons to fit your needs.

What is the Best Way to Safeguard My Pool? 

As always, your best and first line of defense when it comes to protecting those in swimming in your pool is supervision. No safety feature is good enough to replace human supervision. Make sure you have a designated lifeguard or supervisor in place anytime people are swimming in your pool, especially if those people are children. This person should be fully engaged without distraction, so he or she should not be reading a book, listening to music, drinking alcohol, or playing with a cell phone.

The next step is to take precautions to limit and control physical access to your pool. This can be in the form of a fence, gate, or cover. The fence should be at least four feet high and completely surround the area of the pool. Your gate should be self-closing and self-latching at all times. A safety cover is going to be on the more expensive end with your fence, but it is worth it. The right kind of cover is sturdy enough to keep someone from falling into the water. These types of barriers can make a huge difference in the safety of your guests, so obtain them as soon as you purchase or build your pool.

It also helps to have alarm systems in place for your home and pool. A home alarm system alerts you any time someone opens a door or window to your home, so you can easily monitor when a child opens the back door or window leading to a pool. An alarm system for the pool alerts you when it senses movement in the pool, which can be critical if a child ever falls in without supervision.

Contact a Trusted Lawyer Today

Summer time is steadily approaching, and more people will be taking advantage of physical activity like swimming now that the school year is officially ending and more people than ever are working from home. If you or a loved one have suffered in a swimming or pool accident, contact us today at Keller, Melchiorre, and Walsh. A trusted lawyer in our offices will help guide you through the process of determining liability and negligence for those responsible.