The world is getting closer and closer to normal, and this summer is looking to be the first time in over a year that we get to truly be social and have a sense of normal. I am personally looking forward to getting together outside with friends and have my daughter, Reilly, now 16 months old, meet her extended family and friends. My name is Kevin, and I don’t normally write our monthly blog, but since it is water safety month, and I’m a new parent, I thought I would give it a shot.
I little bit about myself. I have been a lifeguard since I was 15 and a lifeguard instructor for the Red Cross since I was 16. Now at 33, I have seen I lot in my career and I have learned that it’s more about prevention when it comes to water safety. So, let me take you back a few years and tell you a story from my time as a lifeguard at the Hellertown Pool.
Lifeguarding at the Hellertown pool are some of my favorite memories growing up, as pretty much all my closest friends were lifeguards as well; however, it was not easy by any means. With hundreds of people in your section alone, it was a daunting task. I remember guarding down at the deep end at the slide area. That day there was a family with a little boy who had to be no older than 3. The parents were not paying attention to him as well as they should. Before you know it, he had walked from the other side of the pool and started climbing the steps to the slide. Luckily, I saw him halfway up and was able to get to him before he slid down. The mother was very grateful, and I hope learned an important lesson about watching her children at the pool.
You see, what most parents don’t understand is just because there is a lifeguard on duty at the pool, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to watch your child. You are the best line of defense for your children. Lifeguards, as well trained as we are, don’t always see it all. So, get in the pool and play and watch the same trick (repeatedly). Your children want you to be in the pool anyway.
If you don’t want to get in the pool, make sure your children are enrolled in swim lessons and know their own limits. And be sure an adult is always watching them. Swim-in Zone has water watcher badges at the entrance. These badges are for an adult to wear while the children are playing in the pool. While wearing the badge, you promise to put everything else aside, the phone & that book you were reading or even the conversation you were having, and just watch the children, so they are safe. These are great for when you are at summer parties. I don’t know how many times I have been at a party and I end up being the lifeguard because no one else is truly watching the children in the pool. I have one final story to leave you with.
A couple of summers ago, my cousin was having a get-together with friends and family (I wasn’t there). They have a pool right outside on their back porch. As the night went on everyone was enjoying the party and all the kids were out of the pool. But his daughter saw a toy in the water and was reaching for it and slipped into the pool. She didn’t know how to swim and sunk to the bottom. You see, drowning is silent, especially with small children. No one heard her go in and no one saw her either. Until my cousin finally saw her at the bottom. He dove in and got her out. She came up coughing, but was, fortunately, okay. When he got out of the pool, he asked everyone who was watching her?!
At parties, you think there is enough people around that someone will see or hear something. But that isn’t always the case. That is why you must make sure someone is always watching the pool, even if the kids have left the area and the party is winding down.
I want to take some time to leave you with a few additional things if you have a home pool:
If a child is missing, check the pool first!
Install a pool isolation fence
It should be at least 4ft high with a self-latching gate
Install alarms on the doors leading to the pool and even in the pool
They make water surface alarms that go off if something disturbs the surface of the water
Learn the signs of drowning and learn CPR
Enjoy the water with your child. Get in there, play games, and just be a kid again too!
We know parents want their children to be safe in and around the water. It is imperative to us as well. However, what parents think is safe in and around the water and what we know to be safe in and around the water can differ greatly.
Many parents think that if their child can jump into the water and get to the side, they are safe. But this isn’t necessarily true. There is so much more to swimming than just hanging out in the pool.
Being safe in the water (not just a pool) means being able to swim a distance and get a breath. It means being able to call for help if needed, and it means being able to help someone else, if necessary. We structure our lessons with these ideas in mind.
Our Levels 1 and 2 focus around safety, specifically for the self. In Level 1, we emphasize that an adult should always be watching the child and that the child is never the 1st one in the pool. We also start working on floats, so that by the time they are in Level 2, the child is able to roll over onto his or her back and float independently, ensuring they can get a breath or call for help, if needed. However, after Level 2, parents stop thinking about safety, and we are just getting started.
Our Level 3 classes start focusing safety lessons around helping other people. We start teaching reaching and throwing assists, and Level 4 classes look at rip currents, how to identify a drowning person, and what to do if a person is choking. We even revisit jumping and diving rules since many of us will swim in ponds, lakes, or even a quarry sometime during our lifetimes. Our goal for water safety is to be safe in any body of water, not just in a pool.
For us, safety doesn’t begin and end at the walls of our pool. It goes beyond, into the shores of our world.
It’s summertime and the pools are open! Well, at least YOUR pool is open, and all the neighbors want to come to your house and swim. But, how do you make sure you are keeping your family and friends safe? According to the CDC, the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-4 is drowning, and 25% of these little ones drown in home pools. Drowning is also the second leading cause of unintentional death for kids ages 5-9 (the first is motor vehicle accidents). This equates to about 700 children a year dying, and approximately 6000 children in the ER with non-fatal injuries. And this doesn’t even take into account children on the spectrum, who are 160 times more likely to drown.
To make matters more depressing, it’s not just kids and it’s not just pools. According to the Red Cross, approximately 54% of all Americans either can’t swim or don’t have the basic swimming survival skills, which are the ability to jump into water over their heads, take a breath, tread water or float for one minute, swim one length, and get out of the pool without a ladder. This means the adults at your home are also in danger, especially if they don’t know how to swim and/or drinking is involved. And everyone without a pool–you’re not off the hook. Infants and toddlers can also drown in bathtubs, bath seats, buckets, wells, cisterns, septic tanks, decorative ponds, and toilets. Children can drown in as little as an inch of water. Almost 70% of kids who drowned were not expected to be in or around a body of water. Make sure that if your child is missing, you always check the water first!
With all this bleak information, you might feel like, “why bother?”, but there are many preventative measures you can take to keep everyone protected. The two, single, most important things you can do is to have a designated water watcher and to have physical barriers surrounding the pool that prevent unintended use.
A designated water watcher doesn’t necessarily have to be a lifeguard. It should be someone who is responsible, sober, and dedicated to undistracted watching. This means they are actively watching the pool, and not chatting with friends, reading, or playing on their cell phone. Besides just having a water watcher, all children who can’t swim should be within arm’s distance of an adult. Drowning is not like in the movies. There’s no screaming, no splashing, and no calling for help. So even though an adult might be right there, a child could easily go under without anyone noticing. Having the adult and having the water watcher provides layers of protection to help ensure this doesn’t happen.
Another layer of protection is physical barriers. The Red Cross highlights many physical safety measures to take to secure your pool. Your home pool, whether in ground or above ground, should be completely (all 4 sides) surrounded by isolated fencing. The pool should be separated from not only your backyard, but the house as well. All gates should be self-closing, self-latching, and out of reach of children. This alone reduces drowning risk by about 83%. For above ground pools, any access points, like ladders or steps, should be secured, locked, or removed after use.
The bottom line is drowning deaths are preventable. Once precautionary measures are in place, and you commit to teaching the entire family safe swimming practices, it will give you more peace of mind and make your home pool a more enjoyable place to entertain. Happy Swimming!
Summer is here and the pools are open! Pools comes with a bunch of fun but also some danger. So for you and your family to have a safer summer here are some facts and tips:
Facts about Drowning
Drownings or near-drownings can happen to anyone.
Most drownings are silent – No Sound or Splash
They happen in less than 20 seconds.
#1 cause of accidental death for children between the ages of 1-4.
#2 cause of accidental death ages 5-19.
Always supervise your children in and around the pool
Listening for splashing is not good enough as most drownings are silent, especially in young children. Put the phone down and go enjoy the pool with your kids.
Don’t rely on lifeguards or floatation devices.
Teach Kids to Swim
While supervision is critical, it’s also important for children to learn how to swim. Kids who can’t swim are at a much higher risk of drowning, every child and adult should learn to swim. Their life may depend on it.
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends lessons at age 1.
Lifejackets are a great way to add extra protection while your children are still learning how to swim.
Adults should be the the ones to put on and take off the lifejackets.
Lifejackets don’t replace supervision. They are only there to help.
While your children are learning how to swim, it’s important for you to learn CPR. In the case of an emergency, bystander CPR can often make a real difference while you’re waiting for emergency first responders to arrive at the scene.
If you Own a Pool
Purchase a pool fence. Pool fences are designed to be a physical barrier to prevent entry into the pool.
Pool fences should be 4 sided, 4ft high with a self latching gate.
Use can also install alarms on your doors leading to the pool and even alarms if someone enters the water.
If a child goes missing, check the pool first!
Put phone number and address in an accessible place so that when EMS is called the address is available.
We all love getting together with friends and family for parties during the summer. If you go to a party where there is a pool, you should have an adult be a water watcher at all times. Don’t forget to share the responsibility; you deserve some fun too!
What’s a Water Watcher
A water watcher is an adult who promises to supervise children in and around the water/pool while keeping them in sight at all times. They do not leave the water area without finding another adult to replace them. Your children will be getting water watcher badges this week. If you didn’t get one, see the front desk and they will give you one.
If you would like for information about pool safety take a look at these links: