Springtime Water Safety Conversations

33015539645_31d28da3f0_zHappy First Day of Spring!

If you’ve lived here in the Tri-Cities for any length of time you know that Spring turns to Summer really fast, and we all go searching for water to cool down- we’re already working behind the scenes to get Pelican Bay ready for those hot days.

As we’re thinking of water play, this is the perfect time to have conversations with your kids about water safety. Water safety is a big issue: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website lists drowning statistics as an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) per year (based on 2005-2014 figures). That’s about 10 deaths per day. And one in five drowning deaths are children age 14 and younger. The CDC goes on to say that “for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.”

It’s not a fun thing to think about: but at 2 child deaths and another 10 non-fatal “submersion incidents” PER DAY – this is definitely worth a conversation on water safety.

Here are some of the important topics to cover before summer rolls around.

SWIM LESSONS: Swimming is an essential survival skill that everyone needs to know.  The CDC states that “Early childhood swim lessons reduce childhood drowning by 88 percent.” Tom Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, also says “This is the best way (to prevent drowning) because it also opens the door to a lifetime of healthy activities.”(1)

Swim lessons are a lot of fun. We offer swim lessons year round here at CBRC. We encourage families to take swim lessons in the off season, or just before summer begins- so when kids get in the pool for the first time in the summer their skills are already up to speed.

LIFE JACKETS: If you have a child who isn’t a strong swimmer, and you will be out of reach of that child in a pool setting, they need to be wearing a life jacket. The same is even more important when playing/swimming in the river. If you are on a boat, you need a life jacket: adults are required to have a life jacket within arm’s length, children are required to wear a life jacket at all times.

There is a difference in life jacket design and quality- U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets (also called Personal Flotation Devices, or PFD’s) are designed to keep the wearer’s head out of the water and children’s PFD’s are made to roll an unresponsive wearer face up- which will save their life. Life jackets do wear out, so make sure to check yours at the beginning of the year. Any torn, weak/faded, or worn out jackets should be replaced. PFD’s come in a variety of sizes, parents should check to make sure kids are wearing the correct size and that the jacket is worn correctly.

DESIGNATED SWIM AREAS: We live in an agricultural area, which means we have a lot of irrigation canals and ponds. Children should NEVER attempt swimming in canals. The current or undertow in any canal moves too fast for anyone (even a strong adult swimmer) to remain afloat. Kids need to be reminded of this danger- “no matter what anyone says, or who wants to try it- never play in irrigation canals!”

The river is also a dangerous place to play. Swimming anywhere other than a designated swim area is hazardous- not just to you/your kids, but also to boaters. Boat launches were designed for boaters, not swimmers, boaters have the right of way in these areas, and often can’t see swimmers. The river also has dangerous undertow areas, and a constantly changing riverbed- you don’t know where the deep spots are.

We mentioned ponds already- but they have their own set of concerns as well. Perhaps the easiest way to keep your kids out of ponds? Explain how ponds are the catching grounds for all the field/farm run-off. Manure, fertilizers (and pesticides), and field run-off all end up in irrigation ponds.  “Want to play in cow manure and weed killer? No? Stay away from the pond.”

 ADULT SUPERVISION: One of the easiest ways to prevent drowning is to always have an adult “on duty.” A “Water Watcher” (you can learn more about the term/program here) is an adult designated to watch the pool during an event, if that adult needs to leave eyesight of the pool, then another adult needs to be designated.

Even in pools or water parks with a lifeguard on duty, parents still need to know where their own children are at all times. And parents should go over the facility rules with kids (especially “walk please”). Lifeguards are trained to rescue people from drowning, but they can’t be babysitters. Every time a lifeguard has to track down a kid and enforce the “walk please/no running” rule, those are seconds they had to take their eyes off the pool and their first responsibility.

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance states that the best way to avoid drowning is to have “layers of protection.” Drowning prevention isn’t just taking swim lessons or wearing a life jacket- you take as many precautions as possible. Playing only in safe areas, wearing a PFD if you can’t swim, having adults engaged and watching- that’s how lives are saved.

We want you to enjoy summer, we want you to have fun in the water, we want you to be safe. If you’d like to look into early summer swim lessons- our next session starts May 1st and is open to members and non-members alike (check our website for details and pricing).

Keep an eye on our website for details and an opening date for Pelican Bay Water Play!

We wish you good health,

Columbia Basin Racquet Club


Photo Credit: Rusty Clark via Flickr


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