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Know how to stay safe around the water this summer

Mississippi is notorious for its hot humid summers, and one sure way to beat the heat is water activities.

Therefore, while many will enjoy swimming and boating as a reprieve from rising temperatures, folks should also be cautious, since drowning ranks fifth as the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S.

While there are many precautionary measures one should take when swimming, Sylvia Gurtowski, director of the Vicksburg City Pool, said the number one safety rule is to never swim alone.

“Those who swim alone are taking a risk that could have a tragic ending,” Gurtowski said. “Any and all swimmers, of any skill level, can run into danger while swimming. Having a buddy will help ensure that help can be given in such cases.”

Vicksburg Fire Chief Craig Danczyk agreed.

“Things can happen,” he said, “even if it is as simple as a muscle cramp.”

All ages young and old enjoy having fun in the water, but when it comes to children, Gurtowski said, the most important thing a parent can do is “provide high alert supervision.”

“Even if the child isn’t actually in the water, parents and guardians should be diligent in keeping their children safely guarded. Everyone is attracted to water.  It’s beautiful, exciting, and fun. Kids, as well as adults, see magic with the water. They are pulled to it like a moth to a flame and in the blink of an eye tragedy can, and will, strike,” she said.

Parents should make sure there is rescue equipment available, as well as insisting children who can’t swim wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket or Puddle Jumper. But even with a life jacket, Gurtowski said, children still need parental supervision at all times.

Wearing a life vest goes for adults, too when out in a boat, Danczyk said.

“I hate when people go fishing and don’t wear a life vest,” he said, recalling an incident in which two young boys drowned after their boat tipped over.

Had they had on a life vest this would not have happened, he said, adding, “Life vests save lives.”

However, even if a child is wearing a Coast Guard-approved flotation device, Gurtowski said, it is not safe for an adult to take the child into deep water.

“Parents need to be able to keep their feet on the floor of the pool while in the water supervising a non-swimming child, because if they are secure in the water their children are secure,” she said.

Additionally, when it comes to water safety, knowing how to swim is wise, and children can began taking lessons as soon as they are able to comprehend and take direction, Gurtowski said.

“Depending on the facility, most pools will usually begin teaching swim lessons for children without an adult with them between the ages of four to six,” she said.

Also, very young children can participate in “Mommy and Me” type classes, which she said, are great for introducing them to water. Although parents need to use extra caution, she said these lessons may give the child a false since of security since they become more confident around water.

When around water, Danczyk said, use good judgment.

“Horse play and diving in shallow water can lead to injuries, so safety first,” he said.

And if you see someone drowning never enter the water to attempt to rescue them, Gurtowski said, “You could become a drowning victim yourself.  The rule is ‘Reach or Throw, Don’t Go.’”

Furthermore, while there are rescue breathing techniques, which can be administered to someone safely pulled from the water, Danczyk said, it is imperative to call 911.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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