Water safety ‘a community effort’

In the ancient world half-woman, half-bird creatures would sing a sweet song – luring entire crews of sailors who drowned when their boats crashed into the sirens’ rocky island.

In the minds of people during the Middle Ages mermaids – beautiful woman with a fish tail – existed. Evil mermaids were believed to cause floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. Yet, the good mermaids were thought to be kind, benevolent and known to fall in love with humans.

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Sirens and mermaids may be mythical, but there is still real danger in the mighty oceans and backyard swimming pools that tempt people with cool, refreshing water on a hot summer day.

The results can be fatal.

Waves could be crashing all along the beach except for a thin strip of water that is eerily calm – a deadly rip current that pulls people 50 yards out into the ocean in a flash.

Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. The National Weather Service reported that 72 swimmers died along United States beaches in 2023.

On Saturday, June 29, at 9:30 a.m. a dozen Ocean City lifeguards saved nine people, including two children, who were caught in a strong rip current at the Ninth Street beach.

Four people went into the ocean a half hour before the lifeguards were on duty, and five more people dived in to try and save them, according to the Ocean City Beach Patrol. However, they were all swept out away from the beach.

Two people were brought in on jet skis while the other seven were given flotation devices and guided to shore by lifeguards.

If caught in a rip current, it is best to stay calm and wave and yell for help. Try to swim parallel to the beach if possible. Swimming back to the shore against the current is dangerous and tiring, according to the National Weather Service.

Swimming pools also present risks, as youngsters are easily drawn to them unaware of any danger. The average of fatal drowning accidents in the United States is close to 4,000 per year, and there are some 8,000 nonfatal pool drownings.

In Burlington County, a 6-year-old boy drowned on June 25 on the first day of summer camp during a free swim for campers entering first and second grade.

In Gloucester County on May 26, two children ages 11 and 14 drowned in a Williamstown backyard swimming pool on May 26.

Gloucester County Commissioner Director Frank J. DiMarco said, “We are deeply saddened by the recent incidents which resulted in the loss of four young lives and the hospitalization of another child following resuscitation. As outdoor activities and pool gatherings increase during the warmer months, the risk of accidental drowning and other pool-related incidents also rises.

“It is imperative that pool owners, parents, and everyone using swimming pools and hot tubs take preventive measures to ensure a fun and safe summer for everyone,” DiMarco said. “Pool safety is not just a personal responsibility – it’s a community effort.

“We must work together to spread awareness and implement safety measures to prevent injury and loss of life due to drowning.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more children ages 1-4 die from drowning than any other cause of death. It occurs in seconds and is often silent, and drowning can happen to anyone whenever there is access to water.

Tips to prevent drownings include close and constant adult supervision of children when they are near water, and having youngsters take formal swimming lessons.

The CDC also recommends that fences fully enclose pools: “Construct and use a four-sided fence that is at least four feet in height and fully encloses the pool. The fence should separate the pool from the house, with self-closing and self-latching gates. Remove all toys from the pool area that might attract children to the pool when the pool is not in use.”

In previous millennia sailors believed they could drown due to the actions of sirens and evil mermaids. This millennium there are very real dangers of drowning from rip currents and swimming pool accidents.

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