2007-07-06 / Community

YMCA Offers Safe Summer Swimming Tips

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 14 and under. Due to factors including limited or no access to swimming pools and swim instruction, minority children are at higher risk. In fact, the fatal unintentional drowning rate for 5- to 14-year-old African Americans is as much as 3.2 times higher than that of their white peers.

"Learning how to be safe in and around water is essential to survival," said Mary O'Donoghue, Aquatic Specialist for the YMCA of Greater New York. "In addition to building character and self-confidence, swimming lessons provide children and adults with leadership, safety and rescue skills. These important survival skills allow parents and children to enjoy a lifetime of both fun and healthy activity at pools, beaches and water parks."

With more than a century of experience in teaching kids and adults how to swim, the YMCA of Greater New York is committed to keeping New York's children safer in and around water. The YMCA teaches over 20,000 children and adults in group swim instruction and trains more than 50 lifeguards every year. YMCA programs, including Splash Week and the upcoming Second Grade Swim Initiative, support the year-round efforts of making swim instruction available and affordable for all who desire it, thanks in part to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. New YMCA Branches are in the works in the oceanfront communities of the Rockaways and Coney Island, where community residents live steps from the city's most dangerous beaches.

O'Donoghue warns that not just children are at some risk of drowning. According to the CDC, adult males account for 80% of fatal drownings in the United States. She shares the following tips for a safe summer of fun in and around the water.

Public Pool & Beach Safety: Pool and beach fun starts with a clean, safe place to swim. When you choose a place for your family to swim, make sure:

The area is supervised by a lifeguard;

The water is clean;

The facility is clean and well-maintained;

There are no electrical or power lines in the area;

Emergency communications and safety equipment are available;

The depth of the water is marked, and life lines separate the shallow from the deep water.

Backyard Pool Safety

Compared to backyard pools, relatively few accidents occur in public pools or guarded beaches. The CDC says the majority of all drownings of children under the age of five occur in residential swimming pools. The following safety measures should be observed for backyard pools:

An adult who knows pool rules and emergency procedures, and can swim should always supervise use of the pool;

A secure fence with childproof locks should surround every pool, to guard against unsupervised swimming. The gates should be locked when no adult is present;

Establish pool rules and post them near the pool. Don't allow running or horseplay around the pool. Be careful with inflatable toys that may deflate unexpectedly. Use only unbreakable containers in the pool area;

Be prepared for emergencies. Have a long pole, a ring buoy with a throwing line and a first aid kit close at hand. Keep emergency numbers handy. Get training in lifesaving, first aid, and CPR, and

Allow diving only where the water is at least nine feet deep from the deck. Tell divers to check the water depth before diving and to use caution.

The YMCA's summer community outreach programs include water safety education, swimming lessons and other fun aquatics programs, available to all ages- from infants to senior citizens. For more information visit www.ymcanyc.org.

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