Water Safety Skills Save Lives
Area YMCAs Stress the Importance of Aquatics Education for Water Safety Month in May
Three children die every day as a result of drowning according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). May is National Water Safety month and the YMCA of Philadelphia, YMCA of Delaware, YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties, North Penn YMCA and the YMCA of Greater Brandywine want to ensure that every area resident has access to quality and affordable water safety resources and instruction.
“Drowning is one of the leading preventable causes of death for children under 14 years old and the leading cause for children ages 1 – 4,” shares Katie Doochack, director of aquatic safety at the YMCA of Greater Brandywine. “Children are naturally curious, and the world is filled with water. It is so important that parents have conversations with their children about water safety and follow several basic water safety tips for how to stay safe around water.”
Water does not discriminate – even Olympic swim meets have lifeguards – and it is important to remember that even competent swimmers should follow basic water safety practices.
Never Go Swimming Alone
“Movies and shows have conditioned us to believe that when someone is distress while in water, that it includes splashing and yelling for help,” Doochack shares, “while in reality the opposite is true.”
The reality is that drowning is quiet. There is no yelling for help or intense splashing – a person in distress is often the quietest in a body of water.
“It is a great best practice to never go swimming alone,” shares Erik Jones, Bear-Glasgow YMCA aquatics director. “This is more evident and important for children and youth but extends to swimmers of all ages and abilities. There should always be a designated person responsible for monitoring the water.”
At YMCA pools – there are more than 50 across the region – Lifeguards go through extensive training where they learn to constantly monitor the pools and perform counts. Additionally, regular drills and audits are performed to ensure that staff are prepared and responsive in the event that a rescue is needed.
Build Your Knowledge Around Water Safety
YMCA swimming lessons start with instruction around foundational skills – establishing comfort in the water while learning how to safely enter and exit a pool, how to turn onto your back and how to float. From there, instructors focus on strengthening these key skills while building confidence and endurance and then eventually on to stroke development and higher-level skills.
“It can be easy to overlook the importance of some of the more basic water safety skills,” shares Jones “but they are very much the foundational skills that can help save a life. Understanding how to swim, float, swim, float and other things taught at YMCA swim lessons can help swimmers of any age and even adults can benefit from practicing these skills – just as one would practice for a fire drill or other emergencies.”
The YMCA is a tremendous community resource when it comes to water safety instruction and offers thousands of swimming lessons and free water safety instruction sessions annually.
“Our aquatics teams are also full of other great tips,” shares Nicole Bandura, associate executive overseeing aquatics safety and risk management for YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties. “I was surprised to learn about how much the color of a swimsuit can aid or hinder a rescue. A blue suit is nearly invisible under churning water while a red, black, or orange suit has much higher visibility. Now, this is one of the first things that I share with parents.”
“Water safety skills aren’t just about keeping your child safe. They’re also about opening a whole new world of possibilities for them. Time in the water is great exercise and can keep them active over their entire lifetime. There are the socialization opportunities it provides, and we all know kids are making up for lost time after the pandemic. And, yes, if your child is looking for a sport, there are so many ways to participate in water. But it all starts with safety and acclimation. And that’s why every YMCA is so committed to this effort.”, says Aimee Smith, Association Director of Aquatics for the Greater Philadelphia YMCA.
Help Waterproof our Community
Participating in formal swimming lessons can help reduce the risk of drowning by up to 88% and at the YMCA, the goal is to ensure that everyone has access to quality swimming instruction.
As YMCA Swim Coach Owen Edwards shares, “I teach swim lessons and coach as my way of giving back. I don’t want any family to go through what mine went through when we lost my 3-year-old cousin, George Nathan, to an accidental drowning. My aunt found him lifeless, at the bottom of the pool. He was brought back to life and rushed to the hospital but died several hours later. I often wonder what would have happened if George Nathan had a swim lesson – a way to protect himself.”
Each year, the YMCA awards millions of dollars of financial assistance to ensure that everyone in the community has equal access to programs and offerings, regardless of their financial situation. For a contribution of as little as $30, you can help provide a swimming lesson to a child in your community.