Water Safety is Serious Business

By Guest Blogger Kevin Bottomley

Summer is only halfway over, and yet, already this summer there have been several drowning accidents affecting children in our community.

According to the Center for Disease Control approximately 10 people die from unintentional drowning everyday throughout the United States and of these about 3 are children.  Drowning poses a threat to nationwide, particularly among children and minority populations.  Surprisingly, 88% of children who drown do so under adult supervision and 60% drown within 10 feet of safety (data from YMCA of the USA).

(Additional information about unintentional drownings from the CDC can be found HERE).

As a parent of three young boys these numbers are both staggering and alarming to me because most of these incidents can be prevented by teaching parents and children about being safe in and around the water.  First, children should not fear the water; however, they need to have a healthy respect for it.

Many people believe that going to a pool where there are lifeguards on duty gives them a break with regard to watching their children in the water.  They believe that it is the lifeguards’ job to keep their kids safe.  This is true, but only partially.  In addition, many people go to unguarded bodies of water including community pools, lakes, creeks, etc.  It does not take a lot of water or a very long time for someone to drown.  Often after hearing of reports of drowning you hear that the child was only gone for a few seconds.

So what can we all do to keep kids & adults safe and prevent drownings?

Following these tips can help save a life:

Ask permission – Children should always ask for a parent’s or caregiver’s permission before entering the water.

Learn to Swim – And make sure children and those in your care know how to swim by enrolling them in swim lessons.  Teaching children how to swim and be safe around water is one of the most important life skills parents can help their children learn. It not only saves lives, it builds confidence.

Learn Safety skills & Share Them with Others – fundamental water safety skills that include the concepts of reach, throw, don’t go (this means reach an object like a pole or broomstick or throw a flotation device to someone in need, but don’t go in after the person); CPR and what to look for in a safe place to swim.  Attend a water safety class!  See the list below.

Teach kids what to do if they find themselves in the water unexpectedly:

  1. Jump/Push/Turn/Grab: teaches a child to push off the bottom of the pool as they are submerging to get back up to the surface while turning to grab the side of the pool
  2. Swim/Float/Swim: teaches children to swim a short distance on their front, roll over onto their back to rest, and then roll on their front to continue swimming to safety 

Like many families, our family enjoys swimming at our community pool and going to the beach during the summer months.  Playing in and around the water offers a lifetime of fun, exercise and joy-filled memories for my wife and I, as well as our 3 boys.  But too many in our community have experienced tragedy and heartache instead due to injuries and even drowning deaths. By learning to swim and be safe around water, recognizing the signs of drowning, and knowing how to help another person in distress, we can work together to make all of the children in our community much safer around water this summer and beyond, maintaining the joy and sweet memories that should be the hallmark of summer.

*Guest Blogger Kevin Bottomley, PhD, is Executive Director at Mary Perry Ragsdale Family YMCA, YMCA of Greensboro

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*Note from TMoM: In addition to the tips mentioned above, below is a listing of free upcoming water safety programs in the Triad, as well as local organizations that offer swimming lessons (most require payment, some offer financial assistance).

Upcoming water safety programs:

  • July 23rd 2:00pm – 3:30pm the Kathleen Price Bryan Family YMCA will be offering a FREE water safety session for children ages 6-14 AND their parents.  Both parents and children will get wet and should be dressed appropriately.  Limited space so register early.  For more information, contact 336-478-9622.
  • July 30th the Mary Perry Ragsdale Family YMCA will be offering FREE Safety Around Water for Backyard and Public Pool Safety for children ages 3-6 from 1:00pm – 1:30pm or 1:45pm – 2:15pm; children ages 7-12 from 2:30pm – 3:00pm or 3:15pm – 3:45pm; teens ages 13-17 from 4:00pm – 4:30pm; and Adults 18+ from 4:45pm – 5:15pm.  All participants must register for this program on a first come first served basis by July 27th.  For more information, contact 336-882-9622.
  • August 13th the Mary Perry Ragsdale Family YMCA will be offering FREE Safety Around Water Instructor’s Choice topic for children ages 3-6 from 1:00pm – 1:30pm or 1:45pm – 2:15pm; children ages 7-12 from 2:30pm – 3:00pm or 3:15pm – 3:45pm; teens ages 13-17 from 4:00pm – 4:30pm; and Adults 18+ from 4:45pm – 5:15pm.  All participants must register for this program on a first come first served basis by August 10th.  For more information, contact 336-882-9622.

The Following Local Organizations Offer Swimming Lessons:

Alamance County YMCA

Burlington Parks & Rec

City of Winston Salem Parks & Recreation

Gateway YWCA

Greensboro Aquatic Center

Greensboro Parks & Recreation

High Point Swim Club

Infant Swimming Resource

Private neighborhood swim clubs and pools (check with the membership office)

Salem Gymnastics & Swim (Pool opens July 30th)

Swim Fanatics

YMCA of Greensboro

YMCA of High Point

YMCA of Northwest North Carolina
*The YMCA of Northwest North Carolina participates in the YMCA Safety Around Water program, which provides swim lessons to children who are part of Y outreach programs and may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience water safety. Financial assistance available for swim lessons.


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