Memorial Day – the official start of summer – is just around the corner. As we prepare to dive into the season, it’s the ideal time to talk water safety.
“Everybody loves to swim,” says Todd Edwards, director of sales and business development at Genco Pools & Spas. “But nobody is drown-proof.”
Swimming is the most popular recreational activity for kids age 7-17, per the U.S. Census Bureau, and it’s the fourth favorite sport in the country overall. Drowning, however, is a real danger across all ages and all demographics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die each day from unintentional drowning; about one-in-five of these deaths are children 14 and younger. And for every child who dies from drowning, another five are seen in the emergency room for nonfatal submersion injuries.
Intentional prevention is key.
“Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 14, but formal swimming lessons can reduce that risk by 88%,” Edwards notes, citing the USA Swimming Foundation. “It’s impossible to over-stress the importance of enrolling children in a series of progressive swim lessons led by certified instructors.”
Greenville has a variety of facilities that offer swim lessons for all ages, from infant to adult. Scholarships are available so that everyone, regardless of ability to pay, can learn to swim. Options include:
Goldfish Swim Club (GoldfishSwimSchool.com/Greenville) – opening soon with a holistic learn-to-swim curriculum.
Greenville YMCA (YMCAGreenville.org) – teaching Safety Around Water programs and swim lessons in three general categories – swim starters, swim basics and swim strokes – at multiple branches across the county.
Greenville County Aquatic Complex (Aquatics.GreenvilleRec.com) – providing swim lessons in partnership with the innovative Starfish Aquatic Institute.
Kroc Center (KrocGreenville.org) – offering swim lessons in both English and Spanish with Red Cross-certified instructors.
Learning to swim is a big piece of the drowning-prevention puzzle – but it’s not the only piece. Water safety advocates emphasize “layers of protection,” a system of multiple steps and devices that are used constantly and simultaneously.
Pool Safely (PoolSafely.gov), a public education campaign from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, promotes simple, overlapping safety steps such as the following:
Learn & Practice Water Safety Skills
- Learn to swim and make sure your kids do, too.
- Know how to perform CPR.
- Understand the basics of life-saving so you can assist in an emergency.
- Teach children basic water safety tips, such as never swimming alone.
- Remember that water and alcohol do not mix.
Stay Close, Watch & Be Alert
- Watch children at all times. There is no substitute for adult supervision.
- Never leave children unattended and never leave them under the supervision of another child.
- If a child is missing, check the water first – seconds count in potential drownings.
- Have a charged phone close by at all times in case of emergency.
Maintain the Appropriate Equipment
- Install a fence that is at least 4 feet tall around the perimeter of your pool and/or spa.
- Be sure the fence has self-closing and self-latching gates; ask neighbors with residential pools to do the same.
- Install safety-compliant drain covers.
- Install an alarm on the door leading from the house to the pool.
- Keep pool and spa covers in working order; make sure they are secure when in use.
- Install a pool alarm.
- Have lifesaving equipment (such as life rings and reaching poles) within easy reach.
The Red Cross reports that 85% of Americans say they can swim, but only 56% of them can perform all of the five basic skills that could save their life in the water. Those skills are:
- Step or jump into water over your head.
- Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
- Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.
- Swim 25 yards to the exit without stopping.
- Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.
“Drowning is a scary potential, but it’s preventable,” Edwards says. “Take a layered approach to water safety by learning life-saving water skills, being intentional around all bodies of water, and utilizing proper equipment. Then, make the most of a summer filled with sunshine and fun.”