The summer solstice on June 20 officially marked the beginning of vacation season across America, when millions flock to beaches, lakes and other outdoor refuges. Most of us learned the basics of summer safety from our parents or teachers at a young age – apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn and risk of skin cancer and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration during the hottest days. But Mama might not have warned you of all the dangers lurking June through August.
Here, are 6 easy and practical things you can do to stay as breezy as a Beach Boys tune during the dog days of summer:
1. Give yourself a break
Heat is known as the “silent killer” because people often don’t realize they are suffering from heat stroke until it becomes a critical situation. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and if you see someone with the signs and symptoms, call 911. If you work outdoors or spend time mowing or gardening, take frequent breaks and seek air conditioning or shade to give your body a break from the sun and time to cool down. Better yet, do your outdoor work in the cooler hours of early morning or evening.
2. Surrender to the guards
Don’t test the ocean waters yourself; let the professionals handle that. Swim only at lifeguard-protected beaches and heed the warning flags. Lifeguards offsite link monitor hazards and will warn beachgoers of threats like local wildlife sightings (jellyfish and sharks), rip currents and tsunamis. Lifeguards are hired to serve and protect the public and will come to the rescue if you get into trouble.
3. Get a charge out of lightning – from the safety of a building or car
Ahhhh, lightning – nature’s fireworks! Who doesn’t love a good summer thunderstorm? But if you are outside, in a tent, under a pavilion, or anyplace other than a sturdy building or vehicle, you can be struck and killed or seriously injured by lightning. Remember: “When thunder roars, go indoors” and “See a flash? Dash inside.”
4. Look before you lock
You wouldn’t leave fresh groceries like milk in a hot car while you run errands for obvious reasons. Likewise, don’t leave children, pets or even granny in the car. Remember to “look before you lock offsite link”, and make sure everyone is out of the car before you head inside. If you aren’t the regular caregiver, place important items on the floor behind the driver’s seat to condition yourself to always open the back door before you lock the car and walk away.
5. Pack your forecast
Information is knowledge, and knowledge is power. Check the forecast before you go. Know what’s in store for the next 5-7 days so you can plan and pack accordingly. If you are heading to the beach, check for any Beach Hazards Statements, which inform the public of a wide range of coastal threats and environmental hazards. On the go? Be sure to follow the National Weather Service local weather forecast office on Twitter for where you live or vacation.
6. Respect the natural world: 'Turn around, don't drown'
Human nature tricks us into thinking that we are invincible, and that doesn’t always bode well when we believe we can outfox Mother Nature. Summertime often brings dangerous flooding from heavy rain and hurricanes. Most flood victims die in vehicles when they try to drive across flooded roads, and they misjudge the depth and power of the water. It takes just 12 inches of flowing water to carry off a small car and 18-24 inches to float larger vehicles. Have a healthy respect for the natural world and let that drive your decisions.