NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — In the heat of the Las Vegas summer, triple-digit temperatures have become a daily reality, and Airmen are spending much of their off-duty time looking for ways to stay cool.
Lake Mead and the new local water park are two popular options for cooling off and having fun. While each of these options can be a great way to stay cool and have fun this summer, they both come with some inherent hazards.
Here are some tips to ensure your fun in the sun doesn’t lead to a summer mishap.
• Use sunscreen. The Food and Drug Administration recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15, but SPF 30 or higher is preferable.
Reapply your sunscreen throughout the day. Even “water-resistant” sunscreen must be reapplied every two hours to provide adequate protection. Ensure you bring enough sunscreen with you; a full-day outing may require a whole tube of sunscreen.
• Bring your own chair and provide your own shade. While the water park does provide both, it will be crowded and chairs with shade can be hard to come by.
• Hydrate before going to the lake or the waterpark. If you wait until you get hot, you may already be dehydrated.
Bring your own drinking water. The waterpark allows you to bring factory-sealed bottled water into the park. This will help ensure water costs and potentially long lines don’t discourage anyone from hydrating enough.
• Abide by physical restrictions on waterpark attractions. Height requirements for attractions range from 36 to 48 inches. Could you cheat a little and squeeze by with your child who is a few inches shorter? Maybe, but why risk it? Don’t let an attempt to make your child’s day turn into a waterpark mishap.
Some waterpark attractions require lifejackets for people who don’t meet physical requirements. For several attractions, life jackets are also recommended for weak or non-swimmers. If in doubt at all, use a complimentary life jacket provided by the water park.
• Keep an eye on your Wingman or your children at all times. Many water mishaps involve a distracted peer or parent who could have provided assistance to the victim.
When visiting Lake Mead, don’t overestimate your swimming abilities in open water. Distances across coves or to islands are easily underestimated.
• Check the weather forecast before going boating. If an unexpected storm breaks out, get off the water immediately. Always carry enough life preservers for each passenger.
• Be vigilant. According to the Coast Guard Search and Rescue journal, a drowning victim doesn’t display the noisy and physical struggle that TV has conditioned us to look for. In reality, a drowning person is typically unable to call for help as the body overrides the speech function in an attempt to focus all efforts on breathing. Furthermore, a drowning victim cannot wave for help because he or she cannot voluntarily control their arms. Natural instinct will force them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water in an attempt to get their mouth above water.
A drowning person can be very difficult to identify as they will typically remain upright in the water and will show little evidence of a struggle.
Vigilance is imperative to preventing drowning. A drowning victim will only last 20-60 seconds before submersion occurs.
Also, it should go without saying that alcohol and water activities do not mix. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading contributing factor in boating accident fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute up to 70 percent of water recreation deaths to alcohol use.
Keep these tips in mind as you partake in water fun this summer. With a little preparation and personal discipline you can enjoy Lake Mead and the water park while ensuring the safety of yourself as well as that of your friends and family.