Heading to the water is a great way to beat the heat of summer. However, it is important to take precautions. Before hitting the beach, have the kids play two new National Park Service Junior Ranger WebRanger games to learn about rip currents and general water safety. They can be found at http://www.nps.gov/webrangers.
According to the Great Smoky Mountains website, drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the park.
“Millions of people every year enjoy swimming, fishing, paddling, and boating in national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “However, regardless of age, every person needs to be properly prepared around water. This point was reinforced last month at Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. A seven-year old girl enjoying the waves on an air mattress was swept out into rough waters and flipped off the mattress. She survived only by staying calm and recalling instructions from a swim class she took last year. She floated on her back and tread water for 17 minutes until a rescue boat could reach her. Although exhausted, she was OK because she knew what to do in an emergency situation.”
The WebRanger activities present scientifically sound information but in a child-friendly manner. The water safety module includes information about appropriate floatation devices and swimming locations. The rip current activity teaches children how to identify and escape from this common shore hazard. Even the most seasoned swimmer cannot go against a rip current. It is important to stay calm and swim parallel to the beach until free of the current. If unable to swim out of it, remember that rip currents only travel about 50 yards before dwindling.
The games were developed by the country’s leading experts on water safety, including scientists and practitioners from the National Park Service, U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Life Guarding Association.
"These interactive games are the result of an incredible collaboration between many groups interested in increasing awareness and saving lives,” Jarvis said. “We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors and we want everyone to go home safely.”