Whether planning a beach vacation this summer or staying closer to home at the neighborhood pool, it’s important to be mindful of water safety and how to keep the kids out of danger. As owner of Charlotte Safety Training, Brian Coffey provides lifeguard training, aquatic safety assessments, emergency plan development, coach safety training and more. Coffey lends his decades of experience in this business to provide expert tips on ways to have a safe and happy summer by the water.
General Water Safety
Be aware that drowning happens very quietly and quickly. It’s a major misconception that a drowning victim will call for help. Most often, the victims can’t call for help because they’re trying to breathe. Bobbing up and down with thrashing arms doesn’t always accompany a struggling swimmer. What does drowning look like? Coffey says it will look different for every individual. Some parents have mistaken it for playing.
Don’t rely solely on the lifeguard. Coffey says that many parents take their kids’ safety for granted simply because there is a lifeguard on duty. It’s important to keep in mind that lifeguards often get distracted and have a whole pool or beachfront to monitor. Keep an eye on your kids at all times.
Get swim lessons. Water survival training can begin as soon as the child is crawling. Children can get acclimated to water at an early age, but teaching them how to swim without professional knowledge can be a complicated process. Coffey says that human beings are naturally vertical creatures, whereas swimming requires a horizontal position, so this transition requires a new set of skills and a muscle-ready body. It’s great to get your kids in swim class as early as possible.
Teach your child how to put on a life jacket. If without swimming capabilities, a child should be taught how to put on a life jacket.
Caregivers must be taught the swimming rules. Grandparents, neighbors and babysitters should all be taught how important it is to watch children at all times.
Don’t rely on floaties. Floaties promote a vertical body position, whereas children should be practicing a horizontal position. Coffey says floaties offer a false sense of security.
Never, ever allow a child to swim unless a lifeguard is present. Coffey says water depth can be deceiving. A child may be in water chest-deep when a wave comes and changes water depth, knocking him off his feet or carrying him away with a rip current.
Understand the consequences of currents. A rip current can take a swimmer deeper out to sea. A long shore current follows the wind direction and runs parallel to the shore. At sea, lost kids are most often the result of long shore currents. While playing in the water and jumping off the ground, children can be unknowingly carried along the shore. Parents panic, assuming the child has drowned, but Coffey says that parents should look downwind in the event the current has overtaken the child. In the ocean, kids should not go out further than waist deep.
Be proactive. Begin the beach visit with a lifeguard lesson and introduce your child to the lifeguard. Train kids to go directly to the lifeguard for assistance, and teach them that when the lifeguard leaves, they should leave the water. Coffey says he teaches lifeguards to be proactive by approaching parents and offering water advice.
Remember, many people–especially children–often overestimate their swimming abilities, so it’s important to keep a dilligent eye on the kids at all times when hanging out by the pool or on the beach. Follow these guidelines and your summer will go swimmingly!
Catherine Lash engagingly connects with people. She has learned that interested listening and thoughtful questioning are the means through which collaboration creates a story. She grew up traveling the world and learning military life in an Air Force family of seven. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and three kids. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.