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Stay Safe at New York’s Water Parks This Summer

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The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is providing New Yorkers with important water park safety tips to support a fun, safe summer.

According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates, nearly 28,000 consumers suffered injuries from public water slides over the past five years. Additionally, recent Center for Disease Control data identifies drowning as the number one cause of death for children under four years old and the second leading cause of death among children ages five to fourteen. Water park patrons should consider planning and implementing a few simple but important safety precautions to limit risks and help ensure a safe experience.

WATER PARK SAFETY FOR CHILDREN:

Plan Before You Go:

  • Swimming Lessons: Multiple studies show swimming lessons prevent drowning. Parents are encouraged to enroll their children in swimming lessons, as even the most basic swimming skills can help keep a child safe in the water. Recent data from the US Swimming Foundation shows that children in some communities continue to have no or disproportionally low swimming ability. Many municipal pools and community centers offer free or low-cost swimming lessons, and everyone is encouraged to learn how to swim.
  • Use life jackets: All non-swimmers, children under 48” and weak swimmers should wear a life jacket while visiting water park attractions. Bring your own life jacket if you are unsure about the fit of those available in the park.
  • Avoid “water wings” as floatation devices: Never use air-filled or foam swimming aids like “water wings” or other “floaties” in place of life jackets. These are not designed to be used as personal floatation devices and can give parents and children a false sense of security.
  • Learn CPR: Every second counts and CPR can help in an emergency.
  • Choose bright-colored swimsuits: Studies show the color of one’s bathing suit can make a difference in visibility. Consider the color of your child’s swimsuit before heading to the water park. For light-bottomed pools, neon pink and neon orange tend to be the most visible.

At the Park:

  • Have a plan in case your child gets lost: Teach children what to do if they get separated from you. Point out uniformed park employees who can help them and designate a conspicuous spot as a meeting place if your child gets lost.
  • Make sure you and your children know the rules: Follow all directions posted on signs, given by park staff or announced through recorded messages. Make sure children can understand and follow safe behavior for the day, especially when in the water or enjoying park attractions. If you don’t think your child will be able to follow the rules for an attraction, do not let them get on. Never sneak children into attractions if they are below the posted height, weight, or age limits.
  • Watch before you ride: Watch any slides, rides and attractions with your child so you both know what to expect before getting on. You can also read any instruction signs aloud with your child and point out the ride operator, lifeguard, exit and entrance locations.
  • Make sure children are positioned safely: Make sure children know they must use all safety equipment on attractions and in the water. Don’t assume an attraction is safe for children if you hold on to them. If you hold on to your child, you can’t look after yourself and you may both be at risk of injury.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, but don’t drink alcohol and get in the water. Swimming or trying to supervise others swimming while impaired puts you and others at risk.
  • Use sunscreen: Apply waterproof sunscreen before getting to the water park and reapply throughout your visit.
  • Find first aid stations: It’s smart to know where first aid stations are located in case of an emergency.

In the Water:

  • Designate a Water Watcher: Adult supervision is the number one way to prevent drowning. Never leave a child unattended in or near water and always designate a Water Watcher. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone, drinking alcoholic beverages or otherwise distracted. Gaps in adult supervision are the leading cause of drowning deaths. Many drowning victims are only out of sight for just five minutes or less. Remember, lifeguards DO NOT replace adult supervision.
  • Keep toddlers and young children in shallow play areas: Many parks have zero-depth entry pools with water games, spray fountains and other attractions appropriate for young children who cannot swim.
  • Listen to park staff: Always listen to lifeguards and other park staff for instructions when enjoying attractions.
  • Pace yourself: Take frequent breaks if you feel tired from swimming or other activities. Don’t take chances by overestimating your swimming skills.
  • Don’t run from attraction to attraction: The walkways between slides and other attractions at water parks are often wet and can be slippery.
  • Don’t pressure anybody to ride: Never force anyone, especially children and weak swimmers, to get on slides, rides or other attractions they don’t want to ride.
  • Stay alert: If you are injured or see any unsafe behavior or conditions, report the issue to an employee and/or lifeguard at the venue immediately.
  • Take breaks: Summer temperatures get hot, and you can end up walking or standing in the sun more than usual at water parks. Sit down and grab a beverage if you start to feel tired. Keep track of how much sun exposure children and toddlers get.
  • Identify swimmers in need of help: While we tend to think that swimmers in trouble will be waving their hands and making lots of noise, this may not always be the case. Watch out for people whose heads are low in the water (mouth submerged) or tilted back with mouth open, eyes closed or unable to focus, legs vertical in the water or who are trying to swim but not making progress. Signal for lifeguards if you ever notice any swimmer who looks like they need help.

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