Tina Baron is a swim instructor and water safety advocate. She offers survival swimming, sometimes referred to as infant self-rescue lessons, as well as stroke development for children. Please visit her at www.littleotterswimacademy.com. Tina also works closely with the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Organization, www.joshtheotter.org, to promote water safety. Signs that Save interviewed Tina and she provided the following answers to the biggest swim safety concerns. ___________________________________________________________
1: What is the number one thing parents should remember this summer and year-round in terms of pool and water safety?
Thinking in terms of a single thing for water safety is not enough! Layers of protection are key. If one layer breaks down (and it will) the remaining layers are there to protect and possibly save a life. The layers of protection include:
- Active Supervision. The most critical line of defense is segmented adult supervision. No level of aquatic skill can replace active supervision. Not only in the home, but while visiting others, during vacations, at community pools, the beach, etc.
- Pool Fence. A permanent 4 sided fence with self-locking gates. The fence should be at least 3-5 feet from the pool edge. Periodic checks to make sure it is secure is also important. Keep all furniture and climbing toys away from the fence.
- Every door and window leading to the pool should be locked and alarmed.
- Quality Survival Swimming Lessons. These are swimming lessons that provide the child with the very critical technique to roll over and float when there is a need for air. Should the child ever find his or her way to the water being able to rotate to a float and float unassisted for an extended period of time could save his or her life. These lessons are conducted in 10-15 minute increments and are one instructor to one child.
- If an emergency happens, it is essential that parents and families are prepared. Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and remember to update those skills regularly.
2: If we see an emergency situation in the pool what are the first, second and third steps to take?
First, call or have someone call 911 if it is a child, the adult should pull them out and begin CPR if the child is unresponsive. If it is an adult in distress and the adult is conscious throw a rope, a towel, even a pool noodle for them to grab so that you can pull them out Have the child or adult checked by a doctor, if he or she is not transported to a hospital. Teach your children to call you if they see anyone in danger in the pool. We never want a child to jump in to help another child.
3: Are there any pool toys you feel we should avoid or be cautious to use this summer or in general?
Flotations, particularly puddle jumpers and inflatable arm bands (also known as water wings). These are very dangerous for a couple of reasons. They give the parent a sense of comfort believing that their child is safe to be in the water (sometimes without close adult supervision). They also falsely teach the child that they can surface and breathe, when actually they are upright (vertical), which is sadly the drowning position. These devices send a message to the child that he/she can jump in the water at any time and bounce to the top. Many children who have lost their lives to drowning made it to the water without their puddle jumper and assumed they could jump in and resume that surface vertical breathing. Those children were in the drowning position with legs down, spinning in a bicycle kick unable to reach the surface for air, but doing the only thing they knew to do in the water to get air. The results of using these devices in the pool are tragic.
4: Any advice for parents or caregivers on safeguards to protect loved ones from drowning?
Follow the Layers of protection listed above! Don’t use puddle jumpers, hold your babies in the water until you can get them swimming lessons. After they have been trained, swim with them!!!!! You’ll be making memories that will last their lifetime. Do not ever CATCH your child as they jump into the pool. This sends the wrong message. If they make it to the water without you, they will think they can jump in and be caught. Have them jump in and swim to you once they are skilled to do so!! Segmented adult supervision can be more effective with a water watcher tag. These are free at www.poolsafely.gov. For a fun and educational activity, please visit Josh the Otter at www.joshtheotter.org and read the interactive version with your child at Josh the Baby Otter on YouTube.
5: Is there anything else you wish to share with parents about creating a safe pool environment that wasn’t covered above?
I was so lengthy with all of these that I hope I covered everything. I don’t want to duplicate any responses, but some of the questions ended up asking what I already explained. I hope I have helped you!!