Always wear a life jacket.
Never go out on the water alone.
Make sure you have someone with you at all times whether you’re swimming, boating or fishing. Make sure that friends or family on shore know where you’re going on the water and for how long. This will help them know where to look for you if you’re gone longer than expected.
Make sure you have the proper equipment.
Regardless of the water vehicle you’re using, be sure to carry extra equipment. For example, extra lifejackets, flares, a whistle, and ship to shore radio can all come in handy in an emergency. Carry extra maintenance equipment as well, such as a repair kit and fire extinguisher. Make sure you have a first aid kit with you at all times. Store these items safely, and make sure everyone on the boat knows where they are and how to reach them.
If you are out on a boat, have a good GPS navigator system on board. Even if it is a portable handheld GPS unit, it will help to provide valuable information, such as directions, currents, water depth, buoys, and obstacles in the water. If an emergency does occur, you can quickly determine the fastest way back to shore.
Take your time and do your homework.
Whatever sport you’re enjoying on the water, make sure that everyone is comfortable with the sport and certified if necessary. Be sure to go at the pace of the least comfortable person in your group. Define any hand signals you plan to use ahead of time and check that everyone is familiar with them.
Watch out for the children.
Children under 16 should be supervised by an adult at all times when on or around the water. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 14. Children can get into trouble very quickly and generally are not as strong swimmers as adults, nor are they as likely to anticipate dangerous situations.
Even if they are just playing on the beach, it’s a good idea for them to wear life jackets in case they wander into the water and get into trouble. Have one or more adults designated as a “spotter” keeping an eye on everyone in the water and give them a whistle or means to quickly call for assistance if necessary. All adults should be aware of basic first aid and CPR techniques.
Keep an eye on the weather.
Check the weather conditions regularly and make sure that they are stable. Storms or other weather events can materialize quickly on the water and you need to be able to give yourself enough time to get to safety should the need arise. Avoid rough water whenever possible as currents can often be stronger than expected.
Protect yourself from the sun.
Be aware of the sun and protect yourself and your children appropriately. On a warm summer’s day, it’s easy to lose track of how long you’re out in the sun, only to suffer the consequences later. Current studies show that sunscreen is most effective when applied approximately 30 minutes prior to exposure to the sun and then reapplied 20-30 minutes following initial exposure. Sunscreen should then be reapplied every 2-3 hours for the remainder of the time you are out in the sun. Keep extra sunglasses on hand to help protect your eyes.