With Labor Day upon us we’re expecting several hundred thousand people to be on the island this weekend. That’s a lot of chances to have something go wrong.
Over the past couple of weeks there have been several rescues that we’ve had to make by the rock jetties despite our best efforts to keep people far enough away to avoid trouble. There have also been a couple of incidents involving young children in area pools. Most or all of these incidents happened at least partly due to momentary lapses in judgment.
People do things when on vacation or out recreating that they would never do in their normal life. Parents who no doubt are very attentive to their children lose them repeatedly at our large beach parks. We have had up to 60 lost kids in a single day at Stewart Beach alone. People who are not generally risk takers swim far from shore and/or pay no attention to warning signs, flags, or lifeguard instructions. Are the parents bad parents? Are the people ignoring safety messages intentionally? Not in my opinion.
All of us get in a different mindset when we’re away from our routine and when we do something fun. We throw caution to the wind and immerse ourselves in the sea and sand and fun. This is good to a point and that point is sometimes the shoreline. Water is not our natural element. Things can go wrong quickly in the water so it only takes a momentary lapse of judgment or seconds of inattention for things to break bad.
But is doesn’t have to be that way. Taking a moment to observe your surroundings at the beach or pool does a lot. Asking someone who is knowledgeable, like a lifeguard, what to watch for before getting wet means that you greatly reduce your chances of an accident.
When you go out this weekend to enjoy any type of water remember to take a minute to be aware of your surroundings and potential risk. You also want to remember the basics like not swimming alone, staying hydrated, protecting yourself from the sun, observing signs and flags, feet first first time, alcohol and water don’t mix, and non-swimmers and children should wear lifejackets. At the beach, you should also avoid swimming in areas where rip currents are likely, like near piers and jetties. These are protected by lifeguards and clearly marked with bilingual, iconic signage. And please don’t swim or wade in the San Luis Pass or Houston Ship Channel.
Choose to swim in areas protected by lifeguards. In beaches guarded by United States Lifesaving Association lifeguards, like Galveston with has an “Advanced Level” agency, your chances of drowning are 1 in 18 million.
But above all, YOU are responsible for the safety of both yourself and your family. Lifeguards provide an extra layer of protection in case your safety net lapses temporarily.
Enjoy the Labor Day weekend. You deserve it. See you on the beach!