Swim safe this summer

Parents should put kids in lessons, watch kids around water, experts say

Go jump in the pool.

But, please, be careful. And stick close to your kids.

“On average, 400 people drown per year and that’s in Canada,” said Shane Eickmann, injury prevention coordinator for the Canadian Red Cross. “There are probably more than are publicized.”

A lack of swim safety leads to these incidents. Ninety-five percent of drownings occur because someone wasn’t wearing a life jacket and didn’t plan on going under water, said Eickmann.

“Men are four times more likely to drown than women because they take more risks,” said Barbara Byers of the Lifesaving Society, adding men 18 to 50 are at greatest risk. “They are more likely to go boating without a life jacket, drink before and during the time they’re boating, and to take risks and boat when the water is rough.”

To reduce the threat of drowning, Eickmann says don’t be overconfident in your swimming ability, don’t drink alcohol while in the water, and wear safety equipment.

Children are also at high risk.

“Children are fearless around water,” Byers said. “There’s a magnet attraction and they want to be around it.”

The best way to protect young children is to stay very close, she says.

“We say to parents, if they’re not within arms reach, you’ve gone too far,” Byers said. “Put toddlers in life jackets. It’s really important when they’re around water.”

And swimming lessons are key, Byers said.

“Enroll kids in … lessons because learning how to swim is an important way to be safe around water,” Byers said.

Mother of three Tracey Kent didn’t waste any time in getting her children enrolled in lessons.

“I put them in swimming as soon as they hit about four because I didn’t want them to drown,” Kent said. “I didn’t want them to have problems around water.”

Learning about water safety is important, Kent says, and there is some fun to be had while learning.

“They enjoy it very much so, that we put a pool in our backyard,” she said. “They use it all the time.”

Kent’s oldest child is entering the lifeguarding program, while her second oldest will follow suit as soon as he is of age. Her youngest is swimming through the levels. They are all trained in emergency situations.

“The most important thing is the shock of falling into the water and how to react,” Kent said. “They are trained to protect themselves.”

There are plenty of schools and organizations that offer water safety lessons geared for youth and adults.

Five years ago, the Lifesaving Socierty developed the Swim to Survive program that teaches kids basic swimming and survival skills.
Students learn how to tread water, do a roll entry, and swim with or without a life jacket.

These free lessons are being offered at the Monarch Park Collegiate Institute pool this summer.

Being trained to swim is important because individuals are responsible for themselves, Eickmann said. There may not always be a lifeguard on duty to protect you wherever you are.

“Condo pools and apartment pools don’t have lifeguard and that’s normal throughout Ontario,” he said.

The Ministry of Health is currently reviewing pool safety regulations as a result of the high number of drownings in Ontario this past month.

“When it comes to matters of public safety and public health, we regularly view those types of policies,” said Andrew Morrison, ministry spokesperson.

It is important for individuals to recognize the importance of water safety and be aware of potential dangers, such as not wearing a lifejacket, being reckless in the water, or getting too close to the water if you do not know how to swim.

The City of Toronto website has information on which community centre pools are open for leisure swimming, if a lifeguard is on duty, as well as where swimming lessons are offered.

About this article:

By: Jessica Vitullo
Posted: Jul 27 2010 11:34 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto