Swim Safety and Drowning Awareness Are Important to Keep Summer Fun From Becoming Summer Tragedy
By: Robert S Weinroth
As the summer months arrive and the pandemic finally recedes into the background, many families are resuming activities, long deferred, as we heeded the guidance of the CDC. Getting out to see friends and enjoying the many recreational amenities South Florida offers.
With a return to the outdoors comes the need to remember the need to protect the safety of our children. After a year of self-isolation, we need to take a few moments to remind our children to have fun but to do so safely.
Did you know, according to the PBC Medical Examiner, seniors have the highest drowning rate in Palm Beach County based on population?
Here in South Florida, swimming is a great recreational sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. But it’s important to ensure our children know how to be safe while in the water.
Every summer, the news is replete with heartbreaking stories of unsupervised children drowning in a backyard pool, canal or other body of water. It only takes a few moments for the unthinkable to occur.
The number one cause of drowning in Palm Beach County is unsupervised water activity.
The American Red Cross offers these important swimming safety tips designed to protect us from a tragedy as we go to the pool or beach:
- Swim in designated areas, preferably supervised by lifeguards.
- Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.
- Young children should never be left unattended near water.
- Don’t trust a child’s life to another child; teach your children to ask permission before going near water.
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear life jackets around water.
- Don’t forget to protect your pets from falling victim to the same dangers posed to your children.
- Don’t rely on life jackets alone — maintain constant supervision.
- Make sure everyone in your family learns to swim.
- Enroll in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses offered by the American Red Cross, the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County and the YMCA of South Palm Beach County.
- If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers. Many children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time.
- Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
- If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
- Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
- Know how and when to call 911 or the local emergency number.
- Don’t forget the need to protect your skin! Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10AM and 4PM and wear sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15.
- Drink plenty of water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.
- Enroll in a home pool safety, water safety, and first aid and CPR/AED course to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies.
The Drowning Prevention Coalition provides vouchers for free/reduced cost swim lessons for qualified children ages 2-12. Vouchers are provided on a first come / first served basis. Once funding for a fiscal year is exhausted, the program is not offered again until the subsequent fiscal year.
A maximum of two vouchers are available per qualified child for their lifetime (3 vouchers if the child is special needs). A second voucher will be denied if the child does not attend all lessons in the first session.
Children who achieve level three in the swim program are not eligible for an additional voucher. This is to enable non-swimming children to participate in the program.
Parents whose child(ren) qualify and receive a voucher, may sign up for lessons at participating aquatic facilities in Palm Beach County. Call 561-616-7068 for a list of facilities.
The YMCA of South Palm Beach County’s Water Safety & Drowning Prevention program encourages exploration of water-related activities so that our community can safely enjoy the water-rich environment in which we live.
The program serves populations in the county that may not otherwise attend water safety courses or take a swimming lesson due to cultural or financial factors.
The YMCA’s Safety Around the Water Program consists of five half-hour swim lessons offered to qualified groups in the community at no cost. Programming is offered year-round at the YMCA or at pre-approved swimming sites throughout Palm Beach County.
The program is evidence-based and developed on a foundation of “Safety First, Swim Second.” This program is geared for children 3-17 years.
Do you have questions about Water Safety programs? Contact Libby Moon, the YMCA Drowning Prevention Coordinator at 561.237.0950.
Do you have questions about funding for Water Safety Programs? Contact Kimberley Trombly-Burmeister, YMCA’s Director of Development, 561.300.3238.
Let’s have a safe summer!