By: Paul Drewes
(KHNL) - The carefree days of summer are here for many, unfortunately, that also means safety takes a vacation for some headed to our beaches.
They are not properly prepared to get in the water, and that can have deadly consequences.
On a hot summer day in the islands, the beach is an inviting place.
Many take safety precautions to protect themselves from the strong Hawaii sun, but some get in the water without even basic swimming skills putting them at greater risk of drowning.
"You are surrounded by water on this island, it's a very big concern. All it takes is a second for something to happen to them so its very important for them to learn how to swim." says Jaime Ukauka, a Kaneohe resident, of her children.
But its not just kids who are inexperienced in our waters.
"Its been estimated that 70 percent of the population would not be able to save themselves in an aquatic emergency." says Mary Meinel of the American Red Cross.
Many would not know what to do if they were caught in challenging ocean conditions, like rip currents or unexpected surf.
Ocean safety isn't just for visitors unfamiliar with our waters, in fact, of the 54 drowning we average each year, about half involve Hawaii residents.
"It was very surprising to me that there was only a small difference of non-residents and residents drowning." says Brian Cheplic, the Ocean Safety Spokesperson.
Ocean safety stats also show another alarming trend.
"Over the last 5 years, the number of ocean drownings has increased." adds Cheplic.
Which is why those unfamiliar with a beach and ocean conditions should always pay attention to warning signs and check with lifeguards before heading out.
"People will get in trouble if they don't know the environment that they are swimming in." adds Meinel.
If you would like to learn how to swim, the American Red Cross is offering free lessons at Ala Moana Beach Park this summer.