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How to stay safe while swimming in lakes across Michiana

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.-- The dog days of summer are here and many people are spending their days cooling down in the water. There are some things to keep in mind the next time you take a dip in your local watering hole to keep you and your family safe.

Oscar Rodriguez-Ortiz is the father of two children, and each summer he said he lays out the same rules to his family when they spend time around the water.
 
“They stay chest-high only, chest-high and within so that way there’s no chance of them slipping or falling or getting scared, dipping under the water, just simple things like that,” Rodriguez-Ortiz said.
 
Safety officials urge swimmers of any age to be aware of the dangers in the type of area you're swimming in.
 
“It’s always important to understand the environment that you’re swimming in. It’s safest to swim at supervised beaches where there are lifeguards present. If there are no lifeguards present, remember to keep some type of phone or communication in case something does happen, you can call 911,” Indiana Department of Natural Resources Officer Jonathon Boyd said.
 
As a father, Rodriguez-Ortiz said he couldn't agree more with Officer Boyd.
 
“You never know about the undertow, if you’re swimming in a river, you’ve got to also be careful for those. Because once they drag you down it’s almost impossible to get back up," Rodriguez-Ortiz said.
 
The most frequent mistake many people make is trying to rescue a struggling swimmer themselves and without the help of a professional rescuer.
 
“Too often we have someone try to rescue someone from the water and they end up being a victim themselves,” Boyd said.
 
No matter what you're doing in or around the water, the best way you can protect yourself is by wearing a life jacket.
 
“A lot of people don’t think about wearing a life jacket other than when they’re on a boat, but when you come to the beach or fish along the shore, it’s always a good idea to have that life jacket,” Boyd said.
 
The DNR also encourages people to make sure they have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket, which you can buy at most stores and even some gas stations, according to Boyd. Officials also ask swimmers to always use the buddy system any time they are around the water.

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