Alertness can prevent swimming tragedies

Precautions, alertness can prevent swimming tragedies LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – It is summer, school is out and families are going swimming. In Arkansas, that often means lakes, which rarely include lifeguards.

For boaters, we have the highly effective Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's boating education program. But swimmers are usually on their own. Several drownings already have occurred this season.

A first and vital step in safety while swimming is paying attention. Don't go swimming alone. Have someone, an adult preferably, in the group designated as a lookout. This person should sit where everyone is within sight and should count heads at frequent intervals.

Water-safety experts across the nation stress the "reach, throw, row, go" process when someone appears to be having trouble in the water.

First, attempt to reach the swimmer from a dock or the shore by extending a fishing rod, tree branch or other object. Next, try throwing a buoyant object such as a life jacket, inflatable toy or mattress, or foam ice chest.

The next step, if the distressed swimmer is unable to reach these things, is to get a life vest on and row or run a motor boat out to the swimmer. If rowing, guide the swimmer to the boat's stern, then paddle back to shore with them still in the water so the boat does not tip. If you are in a motor boat, turn the motor off and coast to the swimmer. Don't try to pull the swimmer into the boat unless you have help and the person is unable to hang on to the boat.

If you are a trained rescue swimmer, you can attempt to go into the water to save the person, but remember to tell someone on the shore of your intentions, and bring a buoyant object to keep between you and the swimmer (in addition to your life jacket). If you are not a trained rescue swimmer, go for help.

Teach your children to swim, even if this means enrolling them in learn-to-swim classes. If boating may be in your summer plans, check out the AGFC's boating education program at