Swimming Without This Is "Extremely Dangerous," Police Say in New Warning
This is a major concern across the U.S. this summer.
Temperatures have just hit 115 degrees in places across the country, and extreme heat alerts have been issued in more than half of U.S. states. With little relief in sight, many people have one thing on their mind this summer: swimming. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), swimming is the fifth-most popular activity in the country. But there are a number of safety issues that can come along with taking a dip in the water—even if you're just trying to cool off. Now, police have issued a new warning about swimming that everyone needs to heed. Read on to find out what officials say is "extremely dangerous" to swim without.
There have been several water safety alerts already this year.
Whether you're in a pool or at the beach, there can be dangers lurking wherever you're swimming, so officials are always working to give swimmers fair warning about safety concerns.
Back in May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report chronicling a recent bacteria outbreak from a swimming community pool in Pennsylvania, warning people about the risks of swimming in pools with little to no chlorine. Then last month, health experts alerted Americans about a rise in sightings of the dangerous bacteria Vibrio vulnificus on beaches in the country this summer.
Now, police have an urgent new warning that you'll want to heed.
Police have issued a new warning abut swimming.
Officials in Springfield, Massachusetts, are warning residents not to swim in illegal areas, local ABC and Fox-affiliate WGGB reported on July 20. According to the news outlet, police in the area are on high alert for people swimming in these bodies of water now as heat waves hit across the U.S. But it's not because they're looking to catch you trespassing—they're actually trying to keep you safe.
Ryan Walsh, a spokesman for the Springfield Police, told WGGB that swimming in places without lifeguards can put people at serious risk—especially when the area is already off-limits to the public. "Going to any swimming hole where there's not a lifeguard on duty is extremely dangerous," he said. "It can be more shallow than someone realizes. It can be deeper than someone realizes."
There is currently a lifeguard shortage across the U.S.
The danger of swimming without a lifeguard is especially pressing this year. There is currently a shortage of lifeguards in the country, according to the American Lifeguard Association. "It's the worst we've ever seen it," Bernard J. Fisher II, director of health and safety at the American Lifeguard Association, told The New York Times, adding that about one-third of the country's beaches and pools are affected by the shortage.
According to the newspaper, there are a number of factors contributing to the absence of lifeguards this summer. A lack of training for new and old lifeguards was the result of restrictions and suspensions during the COVID pandemic, and some lifeguards left the industry for retail or service jobs when pools were closed, then decided not to return in favor of higher pay. "If we don't keep training new lifeguards all summer, it's going to be a long time before we get out of this," Fisher warned.
This shortage has already had serious repercussions.
A number of cities across the U.S. have responded to the lifeguard shortage by closing pools and restricting beach areas, according to the Associated Press. But it has already resulted in tragedy. Just before the Fourth of July, a 12-year-old from Washington, D.C., died by drowning during a family vacation at Virginia Beach where no lifeguards were present. And in the last month, there have also been several drownings on the Jersey Shore and in Lake Michigan during times at which lifeguards were not present.
It's not just a few cases here and there either. Without lifeguards, "drownings are going to spike," Fisher recently told the Los Angeles Times. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA), it is estimated that the chance of people fatally drowning when lifeguards are present is just 1 in 18 million.
Along with the police in Springfield, Massachusetts, many people are concerned that the ongoing shortage will continue to have negative safety implications as pools and beaches are closed-off to the public while temperatures rise. "It's hard to watch," Aaron Levine, an aquatics supervisor in Austin, Texas, told The New York Times. "It's 100 degrees in Texas. If they don't come to their lifeguarded neighborhood pool, they will find a body of water somewhere."