1. Don't go swimming or boating after drinking. Studies have shown that more than half of all people who drown while swimming or boating are intoxicated. Alcohol distorts judgment, coordination and ability to gauge the hazards of the water. It also speeds hypothermia and may help trigger cardiac arrest.
2. Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Many drowning victims are pulled quickly from the water, but rescuers then wait for paramedics to arrive because no one present knows how to peform CPR effectively.
3. Don't swim in unfamiliar waters where underwater objects, deep water and currents may be hazardous. People rarely drown in approved swimming areas, or where lifeguards are present.
4. Know your swimming ability. The risk to non-swimmers is obvious. But people who know how to swim often overestimate their ability and get into trouble in water that's too deep or too far from shore.
5. Use personal flotation devices. Always wear life vests while boating. Children should wear personal flotation devices whenever they are playing in or near the water. Even the most attentive adults can't keep all kids in sight all the time. A tragedy can occur in seconds.
6. Build child-proof fences around pools. Drowning rates among older people are declining, but they have remained constant among children. Unfenced or inadequately fenced pools are a major factor.