OAKDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — As temperatures climb, so does the number of people hitting the pool or the beach.
But a fun day in the water can quickly turn dangerous. Officials urge people to stay safe and prevent possible tragedies.
“We lost my 22-month old son to incidental drowning,” Long Island father Rich Specht told CBS2’s Marc Liverman.
It happened in the blink of an eye, just a few days before Superstorm Sandy. Specht said it was all because of a miscommunication over who should be watching his son.
“I’d like to think that the real reason my son passed away wasn’t because of the drowning itself, but because of the ignorance that I had and many people have when it comes to the facets of water safety,” he said.
His son Reece drowned in just 18 inches of water.
“Had he had that familiarity, had he had a respect for the water, that wouldn’t have been the case,” he said.
On Friday, Specht and Town of Islip officials were at Byron Park Pool in Oakdale, making sure no one else becomes a statistic.
It might seem obvious, but the most important thing you can do is learn how to swim, Liverman reported.
“Water safety is not just watching your children around the water. Water safety is getting swim lessons at an early age so that children can save themselves,” said Specht.
Even in shallow water.
“Whether you can stand or not is not really the issue, it’s what happens when you slip and go under,” Byron Lake Pool Chief Lifeguard Lauren Barth said.
Whether you’re a child or adult, never swim alone.
“Swimming alone, anything can happen. You could get a cramp. You could, as an older person, you could have a heart attack,” said Barth. “If you go under, there’s no one there to go and get you out, call 911.”
If you’re with a child, make a plan to stay close.
“Remember, as an adult, you are responsible for having young children at an arm’s length anytime you’re around water. Accidents can happen quickly,” Town of Islip Water Safety Training Supervisor Keiran Crowley said.
If you have a pool at home, put up some high, enclosed barriers – something your child won’t be able to climb over.
Adrienne Donofrio keeps her eyes trained on her children so they’re never out of her sight on the water’s edge.
“I keep them really close, mostly up to their knees,” she told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff. “Try to keep them in front of the lifeguard stand.”
That’s smart parenting, say the Jones Beach lifeguards, who are busy guiding swimmers away from dangerous rip currents.
Veteran lifeguard Don Kramer said parents should teach respect for the power of the ocean.
“They don’t want their little kids to think they’re going to go swimming like a pool, because it’s not. We don’t have the visibility, No. 1. You have the currents here that you don’t have a in a pool,” he said.
The currents can get even experienced swimmers into trouble.
“With the tide and waves, it can be a bit overwhelming at times,” said Kramer.
While it’s cooler at the shore, doctors also caution beach-goers about the heat under the scorching sun.
“We now know that after the second day of a heat wave, as such, it increases dramatically the amount of people who will suffer heat stroke and also mortalities,” said Dr. Paul Pipia, Chief Medical Officer and Acting CEO of Nassau University Medical Center.
He said you should protect yourself from dehydration by drinking two to three liters of water a day.
“That doesn’t mean to drink sugary soda drinks, because that will make you lose water, coffee will make you lose more water, and alcoholic drinks,” Dr. Pipia said.
Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to heat stroke. If you feel nauseous or confused, move quickly to a cool area or immerse yourself in cold water.
“We try to stay in the shade, always have a hat and our sunscreen,” said Donofrio.
On Friday alone, Jones Beach lifeguards performed more than 25 water rescues.