It's a bright, sunny, warm day and you and your friends have the next twenty-four hours off. Not far from camp, about an hour away, is a remote yet popular swimming area where you can hang out, swim, play in the water, and have fun. Before you go, here are ten quick tips to keep in mind that will keep you safe when making plans for aquatics fun on your time off.

Before you breeze through or completely ignore this information, here are some facts you need to know. There has been at least one staff drowning during time off in the past four of five summers at ACA-accredited camps. Two students from the same university program died in two consecutive summers in the same lake attempting to do the same thing . . . swim across it. In one situation, four staff members drowned when they chose to attempt the rescue of one of their coworkers . . . all four were certified lifeguards on their time off. All of the incidents reported were preventable.

  1. Swim, if at all possible, where there is an on-duty lifeguard present.
  2. Always swim with a buddy. NO EXCEPTIONS.
  3. Wear a PFD (lifejacket) for all boating activities. NO EXCEPTIONS.
  4. Do not mix alcohol with any water related activity.
  5. Swim in established areas — public beaches, national forest campgrounds with established swim areas, or other designated areas.
  6. No long distance swims. What might look like fun — swimming to your local island across the lake or competing to see who can get there first — can be an accident waiting to happen.
  7. No cliff diving or jumping.
  8. Do not attempt an in-water rescue. The ONLY exception is if you are a certified lifeguard WITH rescue equipment you were trained to use.
  9. Let someone from your camp know where you will be. It's just good common sense.
  10. Don't get in over your head . . . even the best swimmers can run into problems away from shore. Use the depth of where you can stand as a marker for how far out you should be (unless there is an on-duty lifeguard present).

Use common sense when planning any activity on your time off and take particular care around the water. Remember: Your parents, friends, campers, and camp director all want you back safely.

Cathy Scheder is the founder of CampAquatics. For more information, visit