One of the busiest times of the year for fire departments is summer time. Not only do we respond to an increased number of vehicle crashes, brush and building fires, medical emergencies due to heat exposure and allergic reactions, but we see a drastic increase in water related emergencies. Keep in mind that it takes an average of three minutes for emergency personnel to respond and several minutes to arrive at your location and when you have an emergency, that can seem like a life-time. We hope that we never have to meet you during a tragic event so it is important to do your part to keep yourself, your family and friends safe.
It is tradition for many families to spend time at the beach, whether local community beaches or larger beaches such as Ocean City. All waterways come with similar safety risks. Always swim with a buddy, never go in the water alone. Keep a flotation device close by even if you are a strong swimmer. Have a first aid kit with minimum stock of multiple sized bandages, antibacterial ointment, scissors and a tourniquet. Where there is water, there are boats, jet skis and other motorized watercraft which means risk of injury. As an operator of any watercraft, it is important to steer clear of any person or object in the water and as a swimmer, be aware of watercraft in the area. Propellars can cause devistating lacerations (cuts) and even loss of limbs which is why it is important to keep a tourniquet in your first aid kit. Head injuries are another common occurance, causing a person to become unconcious and ultimately drown, thus the reasoning for swimming with a buddy and having first aid/CPR training.
Swimming in open bodies of water can also bring a risk that many don’t think of: bacteria. Here in Edgewater, we are surrounded by usually calm waterways and with that comes the opportunity for bacteria to grow. Did you know that within 24-48 hours after rainfall the bacteria becomes more active, grows and gets “stirred up”? So what does this mean for you as a swimmer? Bacteria can cause infections of the skin and other body organs. If you have open cuts or scrapes, accidentally ingest water or have a lowered immune system, it invites the bacteria into your body causing you to become very sick. So before going for that day at the beach, take a quick look at your local health department website and search for water quality alerts. For those in Anne Arundel County, here is the link: http://aahealth.org/programs/env-hlth/rec-water/advisories.
Last but not least, take a first aid/CPR class. Did you know that most volunteer fire departments offer first aid/CPR classes to the public? The Woodland Beach Volunteer Fire Department does. If you are interested in learning more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and our CPR Coordinator can inform you of upcoming classes. The classes that we offer are great for scout troop leaders, anyone with children and citizens in general who would want to offer help to anyone in need. Do you know someone who has a severe allergy to bee stings or foods commonly found at summer picnics and wondered what to do to help them? This class will not only teach you CPR and basic first aid but you will also learn what to do in the critical moments of an allergic reaction.
Please remember that water safety is not limited to the subjects in this article and tragedy can strike when you least expect it. All the more reason to practice these safety suggestions.
Some other simple reminders for summertime safety and wellness:
- Put children in swimming classes
- NEVER leave children unattended and don’t be distracted when watching your children around the water
- Have a phone close by and make sure phone is charged
- Let someone know where you are and when you are expected to return
- Stay hydrated
- Wear sunblock and reapply often
- Bathe well after enjoying the water to wash away bacteria
- Check medications such as Epi-Pens for expiration dates and keep them cool to protect their quality
From the Officers and Members of the Woodland Beach Volunteer Fire Department, we wish you all a safe and joy-filled summer!