Splish, splash swim away; Don’t let tragedy ruin your day

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Ensurse life jackets fit properly and are the proper style for your activity.

Source: American Red Cross

Recreational swimming and water activities enrich our lives. Family and neighborhood ties are strengthened by weekends at the beach, vacations by mountain lakes, rides on the family boat, pool parties and just “having the neighborhood kids over to use the pool.” While these activities add great value to our lives, water can potentially be a source of danger.

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Recreational swimming has become tremendously popular since the late 19th century. Built in 1887, Brookline, Mass., was home to the first municipal pool in the United States. Today, pools are everywhere. Most hotels and motels, apartment buildings and condominiums, schools, universities and municipalities have pools. Waterparks with rides, fountains, slides and artificial waves attract millions each year. Just as the number of places for swimming has increased, so have the kinds of activities people enjoy in and on the water. Boating and waterskiing, snorkeling and scuba diving, surfing and kiteboarding, fishing and the use of personal watercraft are all increasingly popular.

Likewise, many people turn to hot tubs, saunas and whirlpools for rest and relaxation. Yet, while water can be a source of relaxation and enjoyment, it also presents a risk for drowning; a person can drown in less than 1 inch of water. Each year, young children tragically die because parents and caregivers fail to recognize or notice the danger posed by bathtubs, toilets, kiddie pools, ditches and even 5-gallon buckets.

Many of these tragic situations could have been avoided by simply following basic water safety rules and recognizing the risks associated with all types of aquatic activities and environments. Red Cross Learn-to-Swim courses are structured in a logical progression for aquatic skill development. As participants develop these skills, they become safer and better swimmers.

Parent and Child Aquatics

Red Cross Parent and Child Aquatics courses can help young children become comfortable in and around the water so when the time comes, they are ready to learn how to swim. These courses are not designed to teach children to become good swimmers or even to survive in water on their own. They are intended to lay the foundation for future aquatic skills.

Preschool Aquatics

Red Cross Preschool Aquatics courses are targeted to children about 4 and 5 years old. The Preschool Aquatics program consists of three levels that teach fundamental water safety and aquatic skills. The program aims to meet the safety and developmental needs of this age group.

Learn-to-Swim

Red Cross Learn-to-Swim consists of six comprehensive levels that teach people of all ages and abilities how to swim skillfully and safely. Each level includes training in basic water safety, such as knowing when and how to call for help and helping a swimmer in distress. All aquatic and safety skills are taught in a logical progression.

Staying safe in and around the water is no accident—it takes knowledge and forethought. Whether it is a day at the beach, boating, visiting a waterpark or going to a neighborhood pool party, do not let the good times distract your focus. Water safety takes deliberate action.

Water safety rules.

• Have young children or inexperienced swimmers take extra precautions, such as wearing a life jacket when around the water and staying within arm’s reach of a designated water watcher.

• Designate a responsible individual(s) as the person to watch over children whenever they are in, on or around any body of water, even if a lifeguard is present.

• Watch out for the “dangerous too’s”: too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun and too much strenuous activity.

• Know how to prevent, recognize and respond to emergencies.

•Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.

• Use a feet first entry when entering the water. Enter head first only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.

• Do not mix alcohol with boating, swimming or diving.

• Take a boating safety course before operating any watercraft. (State law. See accompanying article on Sports page) Watching Children Around Water Drowning is the second-leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4. Anyone watching children who are in, on or around water must understand that drowning happens quickly and suddenly. Know each child’s swimming ability and set specific rules for each child based on swimming ability. Maintain constant supervision, keeping an eye on the children at all times.

• Do not rely on substitutes. The use of water wings, swim rings, inflatable toys and other items designed for water recreation cannot replace parental supervision, nor should they be counted on as lifesaving devices.

• Do not allow competitive, repetitive or prolonged underwater swimming or breath-holding.

• Empty kiddie pools immediately after use.

• Do not allow children to swim outdoors during inclement weather conditions, especially prior to and during storms with lightning and high winds.

• Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for further information on enrolling in Learn-to- Swim programs; water safety courses; adult, child and infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses; and first aid courses.

Life Jackets

• Life jackets are not just for boats.

• Because most boating emergencies happen suddenly, everyone on a boat should ALWAYS wear a life jacket.

• Make sure it is the right type for the activity.

• Make sure it is U.S. Coast Guard approved.

• Make sure it fits the intended user. Check the label on the life jacket for weight limits.

•Check buckles and straps for proper function. Discard any life jacket with torn fabric or straps that have pulled loose.

•Put it on and practice swimming with it.