Spring is here and in Southwest Georgia that means things are warming up. Beautiful, sunny days are finally upon us and with the increase in temperature, people will soon be looking for ways to cool off. Water activities are often selected to help beat the heat. While hanging at the pool or enjoying a beach trip is fun, it is also important to be prepared and to stay safe.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children 1 to 4 years of age and the second leading cause of death for children from 5 to 14 years old. According to the USA Swimming Foundation, from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2013, at least 202 children between the ages of 1 and 14 drowned in a swimming pool or spa in the United States. Of those, 143 of the victims were children younger than age 5. With statistics like these, as well as stories and reports of unfortunate incidents right here in Southwest Georgia, learning to swim and to be safe is vital.
Water recreation can be safe with a few essential tips and guidelines. Learning how to swim is essential if you and your family have plans to be around water. Many organizations such as the Y offer swim lessons, and trained staff can help find a class that fits your family’s needs.
While the Y is equipped to help individuals of all ages learn to swim, the organization is dedicated to seeing youth learn swim skills early. Beyond aquatics classes, most of the Y’s youth programs also work to help build swimming skills and to promote water safety. Whether it’s Summer Day Camp, Afterschool, or Pre-K, the Y incorporates a swim component as part of this dedication. In fact, as an avenue to further support the community and promote safe water habits, the Y will be commencing a new program called “SPLASH” in partnership with St. Teresa’s School, where second- and third-graders will be introduced to water safety and will receive beginner swim and rescue instruction. The Y hopes to expand this free program in the future to the surrounding public with help from local sponsors.
There are several local community organizations and groups that teach and promote water safety. Learning to swim is the best way to be safe, but there are additional steps you can take. The American Red Cross offers the following tips to help ensure your family’s safety.
SAFETY A PRIORITY
Only swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Don’t allow anyone to swim alone and always use the buddy system. Ensure everyone in your family learns to swim well, and never leave a young child unattended or in the care of another child. Teach children to always ask permission to go near water. Always have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water. Life jackets are a must for the whole family when boating. Establish rules for your family and enforce them without fail.
At home, there are several steps that can limit the risks of aquatic accidents. Homeowners should install and use barriers, covers, and alarms around pools or hot tubs. Pool barriers should enclose the entire pool area, and be at least 4-feet high with gates that are self-closing, self-latching and open outward and away from the pool. For an above-ground or inflatable pool, remove access ladders and secure the safety cover whenever the pool is not in use. Structures that may provide access to the pool should be removed and toys that can attract young children to the pool should be put away.
KNOW WHAT TO DO
Actively supervise kids whenever around the water — even if lifeguards are present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach — designate a responsible adult to supervise. Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
In an emergency, knowing what to do is crucial. If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Know how and when to call 911. If you own a home pool or hot tub, have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit. Parents should also consider enrolling in locally offered courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies. Organizations like the Red Cross and the Y can help you find a class to fit your needs.
Now is the perfect time to start planning to keep your family safe around the water. Start swimming lessons well before beach vacations and poolside plans. Follow important guidelines and have family rules in place. Remember, when water safety is a priority, everyone makes a splash!
J.J. Edge is community outreach director for the Albany YMCA.