Keep Water Safety Top of Mind
The founders of the Jack Helbig Memorial Foundation offer water-safety reminders for July 4th weekend and beyond.
As we approach the Independence Day weekend, spending time at beaches, pools, lakes and rivers will undoubtedly be part of the celebration plans for many. While you enjoy your time on the water, please keep these sobering statistics top of mind: Each year nearly 20 children drown during the 4th of July holiday, and drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, according to the Jack Helbig Memorial Foundation, a charity organization in Southport whose mission is to prevent drowning through education and awareness.
“Water safety advocates remember well the 4th of July holiday of 2013, which saw four rip current fatalities on the Brunswick County beaches alone on July 3 and 4,” says Kelly Helbig, co-founder of the nonprofit foundation. “We cannot stress enough the importance of knowing the rip current risk and heeding high risk warnings.”
The most important takeaway when it comes to water safety is that drowning is preventable. That is why Justin and Kelly Helbig started the Jack Helbig Memorial Foundation in 2012, after their own 4-year-old son Jack drowned in the lake on their own property in 2010. They want to educate children and adults on the simple steps they can take to practice safer behavior around water.
The organization promotes six key water safety tips for kids and families.
1. Have a water guardian. This means an adult who is actively supervising children who are playing in or around water. The guardian should be within arm’s length of babies, toddlers and weak swimmers.
2. Prevent unsupervised access to water with barriers. Install 4-foot, four-sided fencing with self-closing/latching fences around pools and spas. Install a pool/spa safety cover, and remove or restrict access to ladders. If you live in a waterfront home, consider fencing and dock gates to keep children away from water.
3. Enroll in swim classes. This goes for both children and adults. Everyone should learn to swim to reduce the risk of drowning. Children as young as 1 year old can begin taking swim classes.
4. Learn the dangers of drain and entrapment hazards in pools. Drains in pools and spas can become a drowning hazard when suction puts people at risk for entrapment. Check to make sure drains are covered before entering a pool. Teach children not to play near the drains.
5. Wear life vests when appropriate. Anyone participating in a water activity, including boating or kayaking, regardless of age, should wear a properly fitting USCG-approved life vest to prevent drowning.
6. Check the rip current forecast before heading to the beach. Rip tides can be difficult to spot, so make sure to pay attention to the warning flags. If there is a lifeguard station, swim near it. If you do get caught in a rip current, remember these three instructions: Flip, Float, Follow. Flip over and float on your back and follow the current to assess which way it is flowing. Do call for help. Do Not fight the current.
“Overall, drowning does not discriminate,” Helbig says, “However, some age groups experience more fatalities in certain types of water than others. A majority of drowning in children occurs in swimming pools, while open water is the location of most adult drownings.”You Can Help Prevent Drownings
The Jack Helbig Memorial Foundation provides swimming scholarships, water-safety books for local schools and funds other water-safety initiatives. You can help by donating to the nonprofit organization. Visit jackhelbig.org or email Kelly Helbig at firstname.lastname@example.org.