Summer Drownings’ Surge
It’s the perfect storm – pent-up energy mixed with hot weather adds up to what may be one of Massachusetts’ worst years on record for drownings. In 2021 alone, at least 47 people have died by drowning, a record that is on pace to break the 2020 high of 125 drowning deaths. Locally, the drownings have come swiftly, spanning lakes, public beaches, and private pools.
Leaders making changes to save lives
As the number of drownings accelerates across the state, leaders are responding with a combination of measures designed to curtail swimming in undesignated waterways, and increase swimmer knowledge and awareness. A state bill is underway to increase fines for entering waters not designated for swimming, while, as reported by Patch.com,
“The Department of Conservation and Recreation has produced and posted dozens of new swimming safety signs at DCR parks and beaches, and is offering a Learn to Swim program,” which provides free swimming lessons.
Additional measures include increasing lifeguard pay, and providing ropes and buoys at swimming sites.
Interestingly as well, “NOAA this year launched a national rip current forecast model, aimed at saving lives of beachgoers around the country. This new model can predict the hourly probability of rip currents along U.S. beaches up to six days out,” as reported by The Boston Herald.
In Brockton, the Housing Authority has stepped in and provided life preservers to be kept in police cruisers. Police officers are already trained in CPR and water rescues, and the additional tools allow them to minimize danger to themselves while responding quickly to most incidents.
Rash decisions result in tragic outcomes
Doubtlessly the previous year’s restrictions on activities, combined with a historic heatwave, stimulated unprecedented levels of carelessness. Mix the summer wiggles with a year where few kids and teens received swim lessons due to the COVID-19 virus and you’ve got a tragedy in the making.
With so much on the line, including the lives of the local police officers who are often the first in the water despite being fully outfitted and weighed down by belt, vest, and boots, it’s important to remember the essential elements of swimming — including first and foremost, personal responsibility.
Even when staffed with lifeguards, lakes, ponds, oceans, and pools are dangerous, each uniquely risky: Opaque lake and pond water conceal objects below the surface. Ocean water nurses hazardous rip tides and strong currents that easily carry an adult out to sea, while pools attract toddlers who can slide under the water without a sound.
For individuals who love the water and love the people who keep us safe, the best measures are constant vigilance and modeling good decision-making. Hopefully, with the lens of publicity squarely focused on this terrible turn of events, people across Massachusetts will think before they take a dip — taking the time for swim lessons, wearing protective gear as needed, and remembering to use the buddy system. It’s only a little bit more effort, and well worth the minimal hassle, to keep everyone safe.
The Hundred Club — Serving the Community
At The Hundred Club of Mass., we care for those who care for us. When these everyday people-turned-heroes lose their lives in the line of duty, we are here for their families. We have helped beneficiary families since 1959. Our assistance encompasses college scholarships, financial and legal support, counseling, and enrichment programs. Help us help those who dedicate their lives to serving and protecting our communities.
When a police officer or firefighter dies, in many cases, their paycheck and insurance stop before their death benefits begin, which is where the Hundred Club steps in to help. Your generosity provides immediate support to the families of these everyday heroes; funds they can rely upon to pay rent, groceries, and other bills. Help us continue the tradition of caring for those who care for us. Donate to the Survivor’s Fund: https://100clubmass.org/donate/