Summer is upon us and it can be hot.

Pools are open and individuals and families are making trips to the beach and enjoying the water, like nearby Candlewood Lake and Lake Lillinonah, where boats, jet skiers, water skiiers, tubers and swimmers are in abundance.

Please keep in mind -- summer fun and water safety need to go hand in hand.

Connecticut is bursting with 216 miles of shoreline, 12,148 miles of rivers and streams, and approximately 3,568 lakes and ponds, according to www.ctvisit.com.

And that's not including pools.

That means there are plenty of opportunities for children and adults to have mishaps in the water that can lead to nonfatal injuries such as brain damage or other disabilities, or, worse yet, death.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning.

Of these, two are children age 14 or younger.

Little ones are most at risk, as drowning is responsible for more deaths among children aged 1 to 4 than any other cause, except congenital abnormalities (birth defects), the CDC reports.

As such, fatal drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes for children aged 1 to 14, according to the CDC.

You may not think it can happen to anyone you know. But accidents occur.

In recent weeks, the lifeguards at Lynn Deming Park on Candlewood Lake have responded to several instances of people of all ages struggling in the water.

Having lifeguards on duty reduces the number of drowning fatalities, but lifeguards aren't always on duty, and they certainly aren't on call at pools at private homes.

That's why it's paramount to actively and closely supervise people of all ages -- especially children -- around bodies of water and to take other steps to ensure safety.

Most important, however, are swim lessons that could equip swimmers with vital skills should an emergency occur in the water.

My children are enrolled in swim lessons and are having fun learning basic skills with an instructor who is mindful of their skill level.

It blows my mind to see the kids comfortably splashing around in the water and practicing skills, such as holding their breath under water during an "underwater elevator" or fetch the ring game; swimming while "talking to the fish" (blowing bubbles in the water) and "listening to the fish" (turning their head so one ear is in the water and they can take a breath); doing the back float with assistance from a foam barbell and learning pencil and safety dives from the edge of the pool.

Like most parents, my husband and I want the kids to be comfortable in the water, know the rules of the water, know their limits and be safe.

Should an emergency occur while swimming, on a boat or participating in another water activity, we don't want them to panic. We want them to be calm and know how to call for help and tread water.

Still, even with swim lessons, the kids will always be monitored while in the water. It's the No. 1 rule -- for any age,

really.

Swim lessons are available at numerous facilities in town, including through the New Milford Parks & Recreation Department, and at New Milford Sports Club and the Dive Shop in Brookfield, among others.

Earlier this summer, the New Milford Parks & Recreation Department offered free swim lessons at Lynn Deming.

"Swimming is a great family activity, and lessons from a certified instructor are the best way to make sure you and your family members are safe in the water," Parks & Rec head water safety instructor Julie Reiske said.

For more information, see the related water safety tip story, or call New Milford Parks & Recreation at 860-355-6050.