Virginia EMS Blog

Water Safety Tips to Protect You and Your Family at the Pool, Beach or River

If you are planning to go swimming this Memorial Day weekend, remember these helpful water safety tips for in and around the pool and natural waters. To learn more about healthy and safe swimming, visit:

Healthy and Safe Swimming Infographic

Pools, Spas, and Waterparks

From 2000-2014, there were approximately 500 outbreaks nationally linked to swimming pools, hot tubs/spas and water playgrounds. Most of the outbreaks were caused by the germs CryptosporidiumLegionella, or Pseudomonas.

Water illnesses in the pool are spread through:

  • swallowing water,
  • inhaled through cooling mists,
  • hot tubs jets which force water droplets into the air, or
  • in water play areas such as splash pads and interactive fountains.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that can cause gastrointestinal illness. It can survive a week in properly chlorinated pools. Legionella and Pseudomonas live in biofilm or slime, which protects them so they may grow even when the bromine or chlorine concentrations are properly maintained. Lungs can get infected with Legionella when breathing in contaminated water droplets produced by hot tub/spa jets. Water contaminated with Pseudomonas can cause “hot tub rash” on exposed skin or “swimmers’ ear” in the external ear canal.

Disinfectants do not kill all germs immediately. Germs that aren’t easily killed by chlorine or live in biofilm can cause outbreaks. Disinfectants are important for maintaining pool water quality. It is equally important to use precautions when using and storing these potentially toxic chemicals. In the US, more than 3,000 emergency room visits are from incorrect use of pool chemicals each year.

Here’s how you can reduce illnesses and injuries in and around the pool:

  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • Practice proper personal hygiene.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Every hour take kids on bathroom breaks. Change diapers in the restroom, not poolside, to keep germs away from the pool.
  • Read and follow directions on pool chemical product labels.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment (goggles, for example) when handling pool chemicals.
  • Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly children and animals, from accidental exposure.
  • NEVER add pool chemicals when the pool is in use, and only add them poolside when directed by the product label.

For other helpful tips and a chemical pool safety guide, visit

Safely Recreate in Virginia’s Natural Waters

Natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and oceans are home to diverse organisms. This includes germs and potentially harmful algae.

Gastrointestinal illness is the most common type of illness caused by germs. Symptoms include:

  • nausea,
  • vomiting, or
  • diarrhea.

Algae is naturally occurring in natural waters. Algae can ‘bloom’ when they become too abundant. Most types of algae are not harmful. Some algae produce toxins which can make you sick, they can cause:

  • skin irritation,
  • diarrhea and stomach pain,
  • and numbness or tingling.

Other symptoms associated with recreational water illnesses may include:

  • eye, skin, or respiratory irritation, and
  • ear, wound, and urinary tract infections.

If water is muddy, stagnant, fowl-smelling, or is a strange color you should avoid contact. When in doubt, stay out! Other tips for swimming safe in natural waterways include:

  • Look for beach advisory signs along public access points or along the beach. Many public beaches in Virginia are monitored for bacteria levels. An advisory is posted if these levels are too high. If the beach is under advisory, stay out of the water.
  • All natural bodies of water contain bacteria, including salt water. Salty water will not disinfect wounds. If you have broken skin, stay out of the water.
  • Hold your nose or use nose clips when taking part in freshwater recreational activities.
  • Avoid swimming in natural waters for at least three days after heavy rain.
  • Don’t swim when you are sick. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Avoid getting water up your nose. Use a nose clip or plug your nose before going under the water.
  • If you become sick after being in the water, report your water activities to your doctor.
  • Shower with soap and water before and after swimming. Wash pets off after they swim too.
  • Keep children and pets from swimming in scummy water. If you see mats of algae or discolored green, red, or brown water, an algae bloom may be present.
  • Report harmful algal blooms (HAB) or large groups of dead fish to the HAB Hotline at:

Safe Swimming for Smart Swimming

Every day, two children under 14 years old die from drowning. Drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 1-4 years. To keep swimmers safe in the water:

  • Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
  • Use life jackets and wear them appropriately.
  • Provide continuous attentive supervision near swimmers.
  • Know CPR. Find a class near you.
  • Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
  • Use locks or alarms for pool access points.

For more information on staying healthy and safe in and around the water this summer, visit

Start Planning Your EMS Week Events

National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week is May 19-25 and this year’s theme is, “EMS Strong: Beyond the Call.” The American College of Emergency Physicians has provided a planning guide to help make this year’s EMS Week special for your agency and the community. In this guide, you will find ways to recognize the dedicated service provided by your personnel team, examples of activities and events to host throughout the week and inspiring articles that uplift and celebrate the strength of those in EMS. Learn more about EMS Week in Virginia:

How do you plan to get your agency involved in National EMS Week? This special week offers the best opportunity to showcase the vital role that your agency has in the community. To add to the excitement of the week, each day has been appointed a theme that represents the many sides of EMS. The five daily themes for the week include, Education, Safety, EMS for Children, Save-A-Life (CPR and Stop the Bleed) and EMS Recognition.

We encourage you to share your EMS week activities on our social media pages at the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services on Facebook and @virginiaems on Twitter. Be sure to use the #EMSSTRONG hashtag. Here are some additional tips to help create an exciting event plan for EMS Week:

  • Generate great interest and support for EMS Week in your community by visiting local schools, churches, town meetings and community events; share the important role of EMS and offer preventative tips for people of all ages on staying safe and healthy.
  • Celebrate the entire week with your coworkers just for being in the profession of servitude and saving lives. Take advantage of the free EMS Week events sponsored by local hospitals, organizations and other health-related associations in your community and region.
  • Host an open house event and offer training and safety activities for all ages. Some training activities include hands-only CPR and Stop the Bleed education. This will allow EMS providers the chance to connect with the community through life-saving skills training and for community members to see how important EMS is in their locality.
  • EMS for Children (EMSC) Day is Wednesday, May 22. Hold an event with a local school to give students an opportunity to tour the ambulances, fire trucks, helicopters and other response vehicles, as well as to interact with EMS providers.
  • While preparing for EMS Week take the time to honor your fellow EMS personnel by nominating them for a Regional EMS Council Award. Each regional winner will have the chance to receive a Governor’s EMS Award. Contact your Regional EMS Council for more information.
  • Reiterate to staff members the importance of stress management and when to seek help if stress symptoms are prolonged. Learn more about the Virginia Office of EMS’ “Make the Call” mental health and wellness campaign.
  • Network and recruit new employees or volunteers. EMS Week is the best time to showcase the rewarding benefits of being part of an EMS team. Host a job fair or provide fact sheets and giveaways at local events to increase interest in your agency.

Remember, your community relies on your public service to health and education! Create a partnership that will show them how your agency goes “Beyond the Call.”

Learn more about EMS Week in Virginia:

OEMS Lip Sync Challenge

The Virginia OEMS challenges your agency or organization to a Lip Sync Challenge for a chance to win free registration to this year’s symposium. FREE REGISTRATION! Gather your colleagues and break out the dance moves to record your group lip syncing to your favorite song! Submissions will be judged on creativity, agency representation and song choice. The deadline to submit your lip sync video is June 17, 2019 by 5 p.m. Click here for more info about the lip sync challenge.

Prize Information:

  • First Place – Agency or organization will receive six free registrations and three hotel rooms (100% of cost covered by OEMS)
  • Second Place – Agency or organization will receive five free registrations and three hotel rooms held for purchase (cost of rooms covered by agency)
  • Third Place – Agency or organization will receive four free registrations
  • Fourth Place – Agency or organization will receive three free registrations

Symposium Room Block Opening Summer 2019

The Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) will be opening  reservations for the hotel room blocks in Norfolk, Va. at the Marriott, Sheraton and The Main at the same time OEMS opens registration for the 2019 Virginia EMS Symposium. We will be sending out more information via email, as well as posting it on the OEMS website and social media pages.
Please mark your calendars, symposium registration and hotel room blocks will open in early summer 2019 (possibly sooner.) OEMS will provide advance notification of the opening date when symposium registration and hotel reservations can be made.

Sponsor the 40th Annual Virginia EMS Symposium

Become a sponsor of the Virginia EMS Symposium and help to provide an “Education for Life.” In order to make the Virginia EMS Symposium program successful and to keep costs low for our EMS providers, we need your support! Learn more about the various sponsorship opportunities that are available at any budget level by downloading a copy of the 2019 EMS Education Sponsorship Packet.