Every day in the United States, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The water surrounding Guam has already claimed one Airman's life within the past year.
Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S.
Whether planning a trip to the beach or the local pool, it is essential to understand what it means to be a responsible swimmer.
"Know the water safety rules, know your swimming abilities and know current water conditions every time you participate in water activities," said Raymond Stiers, 36th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation manager.
In addition, it is important for people to always swim with a buddy and to swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards if possible.
Senior Master Sgt. Romar Balaoro, 36th Wing safety superintendent, recommends Airmen who aren't comfortable swimming should take swim lessons to lower the chances of drowning and raise their confidence levels while in the water.
Young children or inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but should not rely on life jackets alone.
Many Airmen and families enjoy swimming within the shallow water, but some choose to swim beyond the reef into deeper depths.
Since there is no continental shelf around Guam, the landmass underwater does not have a gradual slope; therefore, the water depth drops suddenly. Swimmers are advised not to swim beyond the reef and into the deep open water to avoid hazardous waves and currents or other harmful conditions.
Alcohol is also a major cause of water-related incidents. Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation, according to the CDC. Drinking alcohol causes a lack of coordination, disturbance of the inner ear, impaired reaction time and impaired judgment, which can cause someone to become injured or drown while swimming.
36th Wing safety officials encourage Airmen to protect their skin.
According to the American Red Cross, individuals should try to limit the amount of direct sunlight they receive between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and wear sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15.
In addition to keeping the skin protected, Airmen should drink plenty of water regularly, even if they're not thirsty.
Using these tips correctly can mean the difference between life and death for some individuals.
Safety briefings are mandatory for all service members assigned to Andersen Air Force Base and are available for family members and civilian employees. These briefings provide information on safe locations to swim on Guam and what actions to take if caught in a rip tide.
To learn more about the surf, wind and tide conditions, call the National Weather Service at DSN 99-211. If located off base dial 2-1-1.