Water Safety at Home and at Camp

Posted on 5/12/15 by Will Kusek

Summer is finally on its way-- and perhaps the brave among you have already taken a dip in a local lake or river ahead of pools opening. Water activities, from swimming and boating to simply soaking in cool water on a hot day, are among the season's favorite pastimes for families relaxing together and campers spending time away from home.

As much fun as they can be, water sports can also be among summer's most dangerous activities. That is why you should make sure everyone in your family can swim! Whether your children will be spending their school vacation at a supervised camp, having unscheduled time with family and friends, or a combination of both,knowing how to swim can save their life. You should discuss water safety before anyone steps foot in the water-- and regularly over the course of the summer.

Drowning is the leading cause of death of children under five, and African American and Hispanic children are even more at risk of drowning than their white peers. According to a USA Swimming study completed by the University of Memphis' Department of Health and Sports Sciences, 31 percent of the white respondents could not swim safely, compared to 58 percent of African American respondents. The non-swimming rate for Hispanic children was almost as high — 56 percent.

Sadly, there have already been drowning deaths reported in Connecticut this year.

Just as a baby should never be left alone in a bathtub, no one should be alone at the waterfront. Before you send your child off to a camp or swimming pool, be sure you've double checked the facility's water safety protocol to make sure your child will enjoy a safe, cool summer. There should be strict lifeguard to child ratios, rescue procedures, and a system to account for campers’ whereabouts regularly. There should also be a system in place to keep non-swimmers or beginning swimmers out of deep waters.

Non-campers need the same level of swim proficiency as those attending organized programs. Once your "baby" can walk on his or her own two feet, swimming ability becomes a necessary life skill. YMCA’s offer swim lessons for all ages, family swim, competitive swimming and diving teams, and many kinds of adaptive swim programs for kids with special needs, so everyone can safely enjoy the pleasures of an aquatic environment.

When it comes to supervising your kids near the water:

• Limit the number of rafts and other floatation devices in the pool. They can obstruct your view, especially of small swimmers.
• Choose swimming areas with professional lifeguards on duty, but remember that you are the best line of defense for your kids.
• Alcohol and water don't mix as it decreases your ability to think and act quickly in an emergency.
• Teach your children to respect their fellow swimmers by not roughhousing, pushing, or touching others in or near the water.

Would I like your family to learn water safety with the YMCA? Yes. But more importantly, I want you to learn water safety, period. Red Cross, local recreation program, private lessons-- whatever works for your family. It just takes a minute to slip underwater. It just takes a minute to lose a loved one.

Be safe near the water at camp and as a family.

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