Summer water safety awareness — experts advise precautions

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.


By Michelle Cassell
Managing Editor 

The June solstice, on Thursday, June 20, marks the beginning of summer. Unfortunately, summer brings with it a higher risk of drownings, and two have already been reported at Jordan Lake. According to the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, the first occurred over Memorial Day weekend, and the second occurred late Saturday. The Local Reporter wants to refresh your knowledge about water safety and help ensure you and your family have a safe summer around the water.

According to the latest information from the UNC Health Care Tar Heel Trauma Center and the Orange County Health Department Communications Manager Libbie Hough, this is the strongest advice they can offer:

Water Safety – There is no substitute for actively watching your child

If no one is designated to actively watch your child in and around open water  – don’t go.

In and around open water, give kids your full attention. The lifeguard is NOT your babysitter.

Many people do not realize that small children can drown in as little as one inch of water. Keep babies and toddlers at arm’s reach for maximum safety. Do not rely on swimming aids. While water wings and noodles are fun toys, they are not a substitute for U.S. Coast Guard-approved devices.

Experts recommend that parents and caregivers take turns being the designated “water watchers” who can keep an eye on the kids in the pool or swimming area.

Backyard pool safety

Ensure backyard pools have four-sided fences at least 4 feet high and a self-closing, self-latching gate to prevent children and animals from wandering into the pool area.

Install a door alarm, a window alarm or both to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area without an adult around.

Even air-filled or portable pools need to be considered. Remember to empty these right after use and store them upside down and out of kids’ reach.

The bottom line: it is about instruction and education

First, children should be given basic instructions on how to tread water and float. Then, they should take part in practice drills on how to climb out of the pool if they fall in by mistake.

Of course, swim lessons are essential when you feel your children are ready.  Many places offer  instruction free or at minimal cost. We list places to find them at the bottom of this article.

Open water

Children and parents need to be aware that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool. Currents in rivers and uneven underwater surfaces, such as those in Jordan Lake, are always a risk factor.

It goes without saying that ocean rip currents can capture the strongest swimmer. Educate yourself and your children that if you are caught in a rip current, don’t try to swim towards the shore. Swim parallel to the shore until you can feel yourself out of the powerful current. Don’t panic.

Small children should always swim with an adult. Older kids should swim with a partner. From the first time your kids swim, teach them never to go near or in water without adult supervision. It is advisable also for adults to always have a swim partner.

Drains and grates 

The powerful drains in public pools can trap kids underwater. Tell kids never to play or swim near drains in wading pools, in-ground hot tubs, or any other pools with flat drain grates or a single main drain system.

For new pools or hot tubs, install more than one drain in all pools, spas, whirlpools and hot tubs. This lowers the suction of any one drain.



Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Ingram Family (Sanford) YMCAs offer swim lessons and water safety classes for all ages.

Both locations are available to residents in nearby counties, including Chatham and Orange.

Call the Customer Service Team – 919-719-9622 – to find out about scholarships to help reduce costs.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission

Offers boating safety classes throughout the state.

Visit to register.

Orange County

Swim for Charlie

All second-grade Orange County Schools students are eligible to take swim lessons at the SportsPlex for free during school hours.

Homestead Aquatic Centers/Chapel Hill Community Centers

Offers year-round swim lessons for all ages. Financial assistance is available.

An additional public pool open during the summer at Hargraves Community Center.

Orange County Sportsplex (Hillsborough)

Offers year-round swim lessons for all ages.

Orange County Youth Enhancement Fund

Provides financial assistance for youth swim lessons, available through the Orange County Department of Social Services.

Chatham County

Town of Siler City Parks and Recreation

Offers summer swim lessons for ages 3-10 years old.

Chatham County Parks and Recreation

Offers water and paddle confidence classes throughout the summer months

CPR and First Aid Classes

South Orange Rescue Squad  offers free in-person CPR and first aid classes for public and professional

American Red Cross – Online and in-person classes

American Heart Association – Online and in-person classes

Michelle Cassell is a seasoned reporter who has covered everything from crime to hurricanes and local politics to human interest over the course of 35 years. As managing editor, she hopes to encourage writers of a wide range of backgrounds and interests in TLR’s coverage of Southern Orange County news. 
This reporter can be reached at

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