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Swim safely with these top tips

A small boy wearing a lifejacket runs into the lake carrying a sand bucket
A boy plays on the swim beach on Lieber’s Point at Branched Oak State Recreation Area in Lancaster County. Copyright Nebraskaland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Nothing says beach swimming like hot weather, so as you head out to cool off this summer, keep these Nebraska Game and Parks swim safety reminders top of mind:

Never swim alone

Always swim with a buddy, no matter your age, and remember children near or in water should always be accompanied by an adult.

Pay attention

Avoid distractions and focus on those you are swimming with and the water; where possible, designate a water watcher. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children, according to the American Red Cross, and drownings can happen in seconds, as well as in shallow waters. Staying watchful — even of strong swimmers — is encouraged and the best way to respond quickly should an accident occur.

Wear a life jacket

Children especially should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, while swimming or wading in water, including swim areas at Nebraska state parks. Floats such as pool noodles, rafts, donuts and kick boards are not intended to serve as life-saving devises; properly worn life jackets are.

In Nebraska, children under age 13 are required by law to wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. People of any age using a stand-up paddleboard, using a personal watercraft, or being towed by a boat on skis, a tube, or other similar device also must wear a life jacket. Every vessel, except sailboards, must carry a flotation device for each person on board.

Make sure the life jacket fits

Check the jacket for both weight and size limits. Life jackets should be snug and should not pop up around the ears.

Watch for hazards

Lakes, rivers and streams often have murky water, potentially hiding underwater hazards such as logs, currents or changes in water depth. Be prepared for the unexpected, including waves and drop-offs.

Watch the weather

Storms can pop up quickly in Nebraska. Check the weather in advance and monitor it during the day, if necessary. Sudden changes in weather can lead to rocky water and potential lightning strikes, both of which put swimmers and boaters at risk.

Learn what to do in an emergency

Know the signs of downing. Consider getting water safety and CPR trained, and if an emergency occurs, remember to call 911 for help.

Avoid alcohol

Avoid drinking before or during swimming or boating as alcohol can impair judgment and coordination. Keep in mind, Boating Under the Influence is a criminal violation enforced actively in Nebraska.

Learn swimming basics

It’s never too late to learn foundational swimming skills. By learning how to float and other swimming basics, drownings can be reduced.

Find additional water safety resources at and

About Shawna Richter-Ryerson

Shawna Richter-Ryerson is an assistant division administrator for communications at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. She can be contacted at or 402-471-5565.

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