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This page contains past articles pertaining to keeping your family safe. They include a variety of summer safety tips such as boating safety, home gardening, grilling and picnic tips.

For a list of all archived articles visit our Archived Articles List.


brown bulletpointArchived Summertime Safety Articles




Swim Near A Lifeguard: USLA statistics over a ten year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards. USLA has calculated the chance that a person will drown while attending a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards at 1 in 18 million (.0000055%).

Learn To Swim: Learning to swim is the best defense against drowning. Teach children to swim at an early age. Children who are not taught when they are very young tend to avoid swim instruction as they age, probably due to embarrassment. Swimming instruction is a crucial step to protecting children from injury or death.

Never Swim Alone: Many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help, including signaling for assistance from others. At least have someone onshore watching you.

Rip Currents Don't Fight the Current:   These currents are formed by surf and gravity, because once surf pushes water up the slope of the beach, gravity pulls it back. This can create concentrated rivers of water moving offshore. Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there is no undercurrent, just an offshore current. If you are caught in a rip current, don't fight it by trying to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax, then swim to shore. Most rip currents are narrow and a short swim parallel to shore will bring you to safety.

Swim Sober: Alcohol is a major factor in drowning. Alcohol can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability. Perhaps more importantly, both alcohol and drugs impair good judgment, which may cause people to take risks they would not otherwise take.

Leash Your Board: Surfboards and body boards should be used only with a leash. Leashes are usually attached to the board and the ankle or wrist. They are available in most shops where surfboards and body boards are sold or rented. With a leash, the user will not become separated from the floatation device. One additional consideration is a breakaway leash. A few drownings have been attributed to leashes becoming entangled in underwater obstructions. A breakaway leash avoids this problem.

Don't Float Where You Can't Swim: Non-swimmers often use floatation devices, like inflatable rafts, to go offshore. If they fall off, they can quickly drown. No one should use a floatation device unless they are able to swim. Use of a leash is not enough because a non-swimmer may panic and be unable to swim back to the floatation device, even with a leash. The only exception is a person wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket.

Life Jackets = Boating Safety: Some 80% of fatalities associated with boating accidents are from drowning. Most involve people who never expected to end up in the water, but fell overboard or ended up in the water when the boat sank. Children are particularly susceptible to this problem and in many states, children are required to be in lifejackets whenever they are aboard boats.

Don't Dive Headfirst, Protect Your Neck: Serious, lifelong injuries, including paraplegia, occur every year due to diving headfirst into unknown water and striking the bottom. Bodysurfing can result in a serious neck injury when the swimmer's neck strikes the bottom. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, then go in feet first the first time; and use caution while bodysurfing, always extending a hand ahead of you.

At Home, You're the Lifeguard: Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in many states for children age one and two. A major reason for this is home pools, which can be death traps for toddlers. Many of these deaths occur in the few moments it takes a parent to answer a telephone or doorbell. NEVER leave a child alone anywhere near a pool. Make sure it is completely fenced, that the fence is locked, and that there is no access from the home to the pool. Don't let your child or a neighbor's child get into the pool when you're not there.



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Keep the fun on the water coming -- whether it's a fishing boat, a canoe, or a personal watercraft that "floats your boat."

Operator inexperience, inattention, recklessness, and speeding are the four leading causes of tragic watercraft crashes and the leading cause of death is drowning.

Crash statistics indicate boaters who wear life jackets and take boater safety courses are most likely to stay safe on Wisconsin waters.
Follow these basic safety tips and enjoy Wisconsin's great lakes and rivers with family and friends.

Leave alcohol onshore.

  • Never use drugs or alcohol before or during boat operation. Alcohol's effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise, and vibration.

Use and maintain the right safety equipment.

  • Have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard and one approved throwable device for any boat 16 feet and longer. The DNR recommends that everyone wear their lifejackets while on the water.
  • Have a fire extinguisher.
  • Have operable boat lights - Always test boat lights before the boat leaves the dock and carry extra batteries. Emergency supplies - Keep on board in a floating pouch: cell phone, maps, flares, and 1st aid kit.
  • Learn about some key equipment to keep you safe:

Be weather wise.

  • Regardless of the season, keep a close eye on the weather and bring a radio. Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing. If bad weather is approaching, get off the water early to avoid a long waiting line in inclement weather.

Take these steps before getting underway.

  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Open all hatches and run the blower after you refuel and before getting underway. Sniff for fumes before starting the engine and if you smell fumes, do not start the engine.
  • Check the boat landing for any local regulations that apply. If boating on the Great Lakes or Mississippi River, review the federal regulations for additional requirements.

Loading and unloading your boat.

  • Overloading a boat with gear or passengers will make the boat unstable and increase the risk of capsizing or swamping. Abide by the boats capacity plate which located near the boat operators position.
  • See why it's important not to overload your boat:

Follow navigation and other rules on the water.

  • Never allow passengers to ride on gunwales or seatbacks or outside of protective railings, including the front of a pontoon boat. A sudden turn, stop or start could cause a fall overboard.
  • After leaving the boat launch, maintain slow-no-wake speed for a safe and legal distance from the launch.
  • Follow boat traffic rules.



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Campfire Safety

All it takes is one spark for things to go wrong. A carelessly abandoned campfire or a campfire built without safe clearance can turn a small fire into a dangerous and fast-moving blaze. Be sure to build your campfire in a way that does not endanger anyone or the surrounding forest. Enjoy a safe campfire by following these campfire safety tips:

  • Check with local authorities on open-air burning restrictions and follow local burning regulations. Keep up-to-date on fire bans in the area.
  • Never build a campfire on a windy day. Sparks or embers from the fire could travel quite a distance setting an unintentional fire.
  • Watch the wind direction to ensure sparks aren't getting on flammable materials. Put the fire out if wind changes begin to cause concern.
  • Build campfires where they will not spread; well away from tents, trailers, dry grass, leaves, overhanging tree branches or any other combustible.
  • Build campfires in fire pits provided or on bare rock or sand, if no fire pit is provided.
  • Maintain a 2 to 3.5 metre (6 – 10 foot) clearance around your campfire.
  • Build a campfire surround with rocks to contain your campfire. Be aware that rocks obtained from the river may explode due to moisture in the rock becoming superheated by the campfire.
  • Use crumpled paper and/or kindling to start a fire rather than using flammable liquids.
  • Never use gasoline as an aid to starting a campfire. If a fire starter is required, use only proper lighting fluid and use the lighting fluid sparingly. NEVER PUT IT ON AN OPEN FLAME since the fire can ignite the stream of lighting fluid and the flame will travel up the stream igniting the container in your hand and causing serious injury. Once the lighting fluid has been applied to the firewood, allow a few minutes for the explosive vapours to disperse before lighting. Remove the lighting fluid container a safe distance away before lighting the campfire.
  • Secure all lighters and matches and keep them out of children’s reach.
  • Keep campfires to a small, manageable size no more than 1 metre (3 feet) high by 1 metre (3 feet) in diameter and don't let it get out of hand.
  • Don't burn garbage in your campfire. The smell is unpleasant for you and your neighbours, and may attract animals to your campsite.
  • Keep all combustible materials, including flammable liquids, propane cylinders, lighting fluid, etc. away from the campfire.
  • Stack extra wood upwind and away from the campfire so that sparks from the campfire cannot ignite your woodpile. Have sufficient wood on hand to eliminate the need to leave your campsite to restock.
  • Never leave campfires unattended. Ensure that a responsible adult is monitoring the campfire at all times. Supervise children around campfires at all times and never allow horseplay near or involving the campfire, such as jumping over a campfire. Do not allow children to run around near a campfire.
  • Closely supervise children while roasting treats over a campfire. A flaming marshmallow can easily ignite a child’s clothing. A heated metal skewer can be a burn hazard, as well as a puncture hazard.
  • Loose clothing can easily catch fire. Never reach into a campfire to rearrange pieces of wood.
  • Teach children how to STOP, DROP and ROLL should their clothing catch on fire. Teach children to cool a burn with cool running water for 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you're done. Use caution when applying water to the campfire. Once the water has been applied, stir the dampened coals and douse it again with water. As an added precaution, shovel sand or dirt to cover the dampened coals to smother any remaining embers.
  • As little as 1 second contact with a 70°C (158°F) campfire can cause 3rd degree, full thickness burns.
  • The average campfire can get as hot as 500°C (932°F) in as little as 3 hrs.
  • The majority of children are burned the morning after a fire from coming into contact with hot ashes or embers.
  • A campfire left to burn itself out or put out with sand only was still 100°C (212°F) eight hours later. The buried coals and embers retain their heat underground like an oven. There is also a risk that the fire may spontaneously re-ignite. A child may mistake the pile of sand or dirt as a sand castle and attempt to play in it. The temperature, less than 10 cm (4”) below the surface of the sand or dirt can be as high as 300 °C (572°F).
  • A campfire put out with water is reduced to 50°C (122°F) within 10 minutes of applying the water and reduced to 10°C (50°F) after 8 hrs. The safest way to extinguish a campfire is with water.



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The best defense is prevention. Here are some prevention tips:

  • Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
    • Infants and young children
    • People aged 65 or older
    • People who have a mental illness
    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

If you must be out in the heat:

  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
  • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour.  A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above), too.
  • Try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).



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  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.
  • Position the grill well away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.
  • Keep children and pets from the grill area: declare a three-foot "safe zone" around the grill.
  • Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when cooking.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Charcoal Grills

  • Purchase the proper starter fluid and store out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.

Propane Grills

  • Check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will reveal escaping propane quickly by releasing bubbles.
  • If you determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or the soapy bubble test and there is no flame:
    • Turn off the propane tank and grill.
    • If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
    • If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
  • All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
  • Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers' instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
  • Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.



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An afternoon spent at a swimming pool or spa is a great way to enjoy time with the family, especially for energetic kids who love the water. Yet it’s important for parents and children to always Pool Safely while they’re in the water.

To Pool Safely means adopting critical water safety steps to assure that a great afternoon at the pool doesn’t turn into a tragic one. Whether a family is at a residential or public pool or spa, parents and children can always take additional steps to be safe while having fun.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission - CPSC urges families to use the water safety steps that work best for them, building on preferred safety techniques and adopting new ones to keep everyone protected in pools and spas.

In this article, parents and families can learn about the many water safety steps to be used at public and residential pools and spas and access helpful CPSC Pool Safely materials, including brochures, tip cards and educational videos.

Learn how simple safety steps save lives in and around pools and spas.
Parents and families can build on their current safety systems at pools and spas by adopting additional water safety steps. Adding as many proven water safety steps as possible is the best way to assure a safe and fun experience, because you can never know which one might save a child’s life—until it does.

Staying close, being alert watching children

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your child when he or she is in or near water
  • Teach children basic water safety tips
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments
  • Have a telephone close by when you or your family is using a pool or spa
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors

Learning and practicing water safety skills

  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim
  • Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly
  • Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency

Having the appropriate equipment for your pool

  • Install a four-foot or taller fence around the pool and spa and use self-closing and self-latching gates; ask your neighbors to do the same at their pools.
  • Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa.
  • If your house serves as a fourth side of a fence around a pool, install door alarms and always use them. For additional protection, install window guards on windows facing pools or spas.
  • Install pool and gate alarms to alert you when children go near the water
  • Ensure any pool and spa you use has compliant drain covers, and ask your pool service provider if you do not know
  • Maintain pool and spa covers in good working order
  • Consider using a surface wave or underwater alarm



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Summer Backyard Safety Alerts

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) offers information and safety tips when at home in your backyard. These safety brochures, alerts and posters include such topics as grills, lawn mowers, snow throwers and wooden structures.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Hazard with Camping Equipment

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Warns  to never use portable heaters or lanterns while sleeping in enclosed areas such as tents, campers, and other vehicles.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Hazard with Camping Equipment safety alert

Gas Grill Fact Sheet

Before starting the grill, follow these tips for safe grill use. By following these guidelines, you can help prevent possible gas explosions or fires.
Gas Grill Fact Sheet

Power Lawn Mowers

Walk-behind power mowers must meet federal safety standards. They are designed to prevent hand and foot contact with the blade. Make sure to keep children away while you are mowing.
Power Lawn Mower safety alert

Riding Lawnmowers

Riding mowers should meet the latest voluntary safety standards. But take extra precautions to prevent the most common hazard scenarios, blade contact and loss of mower stability. Make sure to keep children away while you are mowing.
Riding Lawnmowers safety alert

Snow Thrower Safety

Most snow thrower injuries happen when trying to clear snow from the discharge shoot or debris from auger/collectors. Always stop the engine before trying to clear the shoot or auger.
Snow Thrower safety alert

Guide for Outdoor Wooden Structures

Do you have CCA-treated wood in your playground, deck or picnic table? It can be harmful to your health. Find out what you need to know to protect your health.
Guide for Outdoor Wooden Structures safety guide

Charcoal Grill Safety guide

Make sure to use charcoal grills outside only. Follow these safety tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from charcoal grills. 
Charcoal Grill Safety guide




Have a Smart and Safe Summer!
By: Tracey Brand, RD, Creative Services - Froedtert Health

Here in Wisconsin, we wait all year for summer to arrive so we can get outdoors.  But, as the summer heats up, taking a few simple precautions can keep us safe and make our lives more enjoyable.  Here are some summer tips on protecting your skin, managing bug bites, keeping your food safe and staying hydrated. 

Skin Savvy

A nice summer tan might look good, but it is dangerous.  In the United States, one person dies from melanoma (skin cancer) every 68 minutes. In as little as 15 minutes, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin.  Follow these tips to protect your skin:

  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside – even on cloudy days
  • Put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin
  • Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays.  Higher numbers indicate more protection.  Use a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Look for shade during peak sun (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses and clothing to protect exposed skin
  • Look for an expiration date on your sunscreen to ensure its current
  • Use a lip balm rated spf 15 or higher. Lips need protection too!!
  • Examine your skin on a regular basis. Any mole that changes shape/color/size, any sore that doesn't heal, or any persistent patch of irritated skin or small growth may be a sign of cancer and needs to be professionally evaluated.
  • Sunburn blisters are second degree burns – see a doctor. Remember that sunburns can look mild at first, but over a period of time, they can progress to the blister stage.

Bug Bites

Insect stings often cause minor swelling, redness, pain and itching.  Most bites and stings will heal on their own without a visit to the doctor.  There are several things you can do to relieve the pain and itching and prevent infection from a bite or sting.

  • After you are stung, move away from the insect – bees will alert other bees, making them more likely to sting.
  • Remain calm – movement will increase the spread of venom in your bloodstream.
  • Remove the stinger as soon as possible.  In less than 20 seconds after a sting, 90 percent of the venom is injected into your body.  You can pinch it or scrape it out.
  • Apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes once per hour for the first 6 hours.
  • When not using the ice, keep a cool, wet cloth on the bite or sting up to six hours.
  • Try a nonprescription medicine for the relief of itching, redness and swelling.  Antihistamines (Benadryl) may help relieve the symptoms – check with your doctor before giving this to kids.
  • A spray of local anesthetic containing benzocaine may help relieve pain.
  • Hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion applied to the skin may help relieve itching and redness.

Food Safety

Summer is a favorite time to be outdoors with friends and family at picnics, festivals and get-togethers.  Most of these social events include an abundance of appetizing food but also increased risk for foodborne illnesses due to food sitting out in hot, humid conditions.  Foodborne illness usually results in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever caused by bacteria that are lurking on foods and dining surfaces.  Symptoms can range from fairly mild to quite severe.  Take these safety steps to prevent getting sick:

  • Keep cold food stored at 40 degrees F or below to prevent the growth of bacteria.  Use a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs and limit the number of times you open the cooler.  A full cooler will maintain its temperature longer than a partially filled one.
  • Wash hands before preparing any of the food and before eating the food.
  • Keep raw meat, seafood and poultry wrapped securely to keep juices from contaminating other foods.
  • Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables before packing and eating.
  • Pack drinks and foods in separate coolers.  That way warm air will not reach the perishables each time someone grabs a beverage.
  • Two hours is the limit of time perishable food should sit out in temperatures between 40-90 degrees.  If the temperature is above 90 degrees, food should not sit out for more than one hour.  Discard any food that has been left out longer than this.
  • To help maintain a safe temperature, place foods on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

Staying Hydrated

Whether walking outside, playing basketball, or lounging poolside, it is essential to consume plenty of water during summer heat waves.  During higher temperatures our bodies require more fluids to compensate.  The effects of dehydration are progressive: thirst, then fatigue, next weakness, followed by delirium.  It is important to pay attention to signals of water loss and minimize the risk by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.  Try these:

  • Drink 8-12 ounces of water per day.  Add one cup for each hour of activity.
  • Drink decaffeinated beverages (caffeine acts as a diuretic and causes more fluid loss)
  • Drink unsweetened flavored waters
  • Drink milk
  • Drink fruit juices (dilute with water for best result)
  • Drink sports drinks if vigorous exercise for more than one hour
  • Avoid alcohol (also a diuretic and promotes fluid loss)


The best way to deal with any of these summertime hazards is to prevent injury in the first place. Enjoy summer but be safe and smart about it.



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Information and recommendations are compiled from sources believed to be reliable. The Sheriff’s Office  makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances. Last Revised: 08/14