Keep Your Family Safe Around Water With These Six Safety Practices

Once school lets out, area pools open, and families migrate to the beach. Water is a summer lifestyle for many of us in Delaware, but water can also be a hazard. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for kids ages 5-14 in this country. I sat down with Deric Clinton, the Y’s Senior Director of Aquatics and Taylor Demyan, Assistant Aquatics Director to talk about water safety. During our conversation, they offered their take on the guidelines spelled out by Y-USA.

  1. Never swim alone. Use the buddy system and don’t swim in areas without a lifeguard.
  2. Supervise your children when they are in the water. It is easy to feel a false sense of security when a lifeguard is on duty, but a lifeguard has many people to watch. If you have young children, keep them within arm’s reach around water. Pay attention to older children. If you are going around water with a group of adults, don’t assume that someone else is paying attention to the kids. Take turns being the vigilant one.  Designate something like a special hat or a plastic lei to indicate the parent(s) on duty. This is especially important at private pools without a lifeguard on duty or on a beach outing.
  3. Don’t engage in breath-holding activities. This is especially dangerous for younger children. It can lead to drowning or other harmful side-effects.
  4. Wear a lifejacket. Non-swimmers should always wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket around water.
  5. Don’t jump in the water to save someone who is drowning in deep water. Lifeguards are taught to “Reach, Throw, Don’t go.” This means reach out to the person in peril or throw them a line. Attempts to go into the water with a drowning person are often thwarted because the panicked swimmer often overpowers the helper and pulls them under, too. Do not risk a second drowning by going into deep water.
  6. Enroll your children in water safety or swim lessons. Knowing how to swim isn’t just good fun and exercise; it is a necessity living in Delaware’s water culture. Having introduced the concept of swim lessons over 100 years ago, the Y is “America’s Swim Instructor.” The YMCA of Delaware continues that tradition with Water Wise, their water safety initiative. Programs include Safety Around Water which helps youth and adults gain confidence around water with fun activities that teach safety and respect. From there, the Y offers all levels of swim lessons, from beginner to lifeguard training. In addition, Brandywine Y offers S.W.A.M. (Swimming With AutisM) for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some area branches even offer SCUBA and snorkeling. This year YMCA of Delaware was awarded a grant that allows them to give swim lessons to hundreds of kids at free or reduced rates, including a district-wide partnership with the Red Clay School District where many third graders take swim lessons during their school day.

The YMCA has programs for everybody. Take the first step to keeping your family safe. Click here to find out more about water safety programs at the YMCA of Delaware or call your local branch.

With these 6 ways to be safe around water, you can achieve the three goals the YMCA has for their water programs: have fun, be confident, stay safe. I’ll add another to the list—enjoy your Delaware summer.

Contributed by: Jill Althouse-Wood


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