By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — Confident, well-trained swimmers tend to survive in the water.
That is probably one of the most important possible messages of National Water Safety Month — an annual event taking place right now, May 2016, officials said.
Eliminating distractions for parents watching children swim also can be a lifesaver, explained Daniel Taylor, aquatics director at the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.
“A lot of parents think, ‘We’ll take the kids to the pool where there are lifeguards, so they’ll be safe,’ but keeping them safe is a matter of constant awareness,” he said. “We get distracted with cell phones and global technology and we are constantly distracted with our children. Distractions are a big, regular thing.”
Taylor offered various tips to keep children safe in the water while discussing the significance of National Water Safety Month with the TJP.
National Water Safety Month, incidentally, is celebrated through educational programs, public service announcements, governmental proclamations, dealer and business promotions and the distribution of water safety-themed materials — all aimed primarily at the public, according to www.nationalwatersafetymonth.org.
This month is a time to discard those cavalier attitudes toward swim safety environments that can result in drownings, Taylor emphasized.
Examples of such attitudes are pool parties that allow rowdy behavior, improper flotation devices and inadequate supervision of swimmers. Officials instead urge an emphasis on year-round lessons and Coast Guard-approved devices.
Many agencies and officials are taking the importance of swimming safety very seriously during this special month.
For instance, the USA Swimming Foundation — www.usaswimming.org — has set a goal to provide 1 million swim lessons to children annually by Dec. 31, 2017.
“Learning to swim is the surest way to being safer in the water,” said Debbie Hesse, USA Swimming Foundation executive director. “In the U.S., 10 people drown a day but drownings are preventable.”
In an article posted on www.jccdallas.org, Taylor quoted a Centers For Disease Control statistic that indicates drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages 1-4 than any other cause — except congenital anomalies.
Taylor said fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death.
The Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy places the highest priority on water safety and accident readiness, he said.
One thing Taylor repeatedly cautioned about was parents who urge their children to learn the bare minimum about swimming — for instance, just swimming across the pool and exiting on the other side.
The bare minimum does not train a child to save him- or herself in a drowning emergency, he said. The child who never learned anything but to swim to the other side — no true survival skills such as back floating — can become suddenly paralyzed with fear and drown.
“Arming children with this knowledge is confidence-building,” Taylor said. “We see so many kids who are not at all confident in the water. They panic. Drowning isn’t what you see in TV or in movies. It is very quiet and quick. Our main job is to prevent that. We don’t want them afraid. Confidence is key.”
One never knows when a potential drowning is going to happen. Taylor remembers going to a birthday party as a child and experiencing one such incident.
“It was scary,” he said.
Fortunately, the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy has had no major incidents, Taylor said.
He said learning the necessary skills to survive in the water takes focus and motivation. And that can be achieved only by practice and repetition.
“I have been accused by parents who say, ‘Oh, you’re no fun,’ but we strive for a fun and safe environment,” Taylor said. “We want everybody who comes to our facility to leave as they came — safely.”
Anyone who wishes to discuss water safety with Taylor is welcome to call him at 214-239-7141 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Water safety tips
- Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible.
- Don’t think you’ll hear a child who’s in trouble in the water; child drowning is a silent death, with no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble.
- Always brief babysitters on water safety, emphasizing the need for constant supervision.
- Appoint a “designated watcher” to monitor children during social gatherings at or near pools.
- Equip doors and windows that exit to a pool area with alarms.
- Keep rescue equipment poolside. Don’t wait for the paramedics to arrive because you will lose valuable life-saving seconds. Four to six minutes without oxygen can cause permanent brain damage or death.
- Keep a first-aid kit at poolside.
- Maintain constant visual contact with children in a pool or pool area. If a child is missing, check the pool first; seconds count in preventing death or disability.
- Don’t use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
- Never allow a young child in a pool without an adult.
- Don’t leave objects such as toys that might attract a child in the pool and pool area.
- Never prop the gate to a pool area open.
- Never assume someone else is watching a child in a pool area.
- Don’t leave chairs or other items of furniture where a child could use them to climb into a fenced pool area.
SOURCE: The Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas