2011-10-14 / Community

RWA Making Water Safety A Top Priority

Students showing off their UV bead bracelets Students showing off their UV bead bracelets In 2009 the Rockaway Peninsula had more drownings than any other coastal community in the US. In response to this, Rockaway Waterfront Alliance took on a water safety initiative sponsored by National Grid to work with local Rockaway schools each spring before the beach season to educate kids on the dangers of the open water.

This year RWA worked with more than 1,000 students in four Rockaway schools K-10th grade. Students made their own UV beach bracelets, watched US Lifeguard Association (USLA) videos on rip currents, and reviewed basic guidelines of what to do in an emergency when seeing someone drowning.

“These kids are the eyes and ears of our community and the more people we have on our beaches who are educated in water safety the safer our beaches will be. Children even as young as five years old can learn basics of “Don’t swim where there is no lifeguard” or by following correct protocol for drownings, said Executive Director Jeanne DuPont.

Elizabeth Manclark shows students rip current video. Elizabeth Manclark shows students rip current video. “One of the most common drownings in coastal communities are referred to as ‘hero drownings,’ where someone runs in to save another person and in the process ends up drowning, themselves. We see this in the papers all the time and it is one of the biggest reasons to talk about this with students so they know this is rule #1 of what not to do.”

This year when RWA reached out to schools to do water safety workshops, they were informed that the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Education mandated that no schools in New York City were to attend any beach outings due to a drowning that occurred in Long Beach last year.

“This is such a short term solution to a much bigger problem. How long are we going to keep kids from going to a real beach and even more importantly the schools should be a place to teach children the basics of water safety. Teachers and educators should be required to learn the basics if we are to reduce the number of drownings that take place each year.”

Students learning basic water safety Students learning basic water safety Ironically, the Department of Education is presently involved in working with the present administration’s “Great Outdoors” campaign intended to improve health- and science-based education in schools through exploring the environment. But water safety obviously has not become a part of that agenda and people forget that many New York City students live directly off the water but have never actually had access to their waterfront.

“It is clear we need more water safety instruction in the schools and the Rockaway schools are one of the most appropriate places for this. Special thanks to Scholars’ Academy, Kappa Vi, Rockaway Park High School for Environmental

Sustainability and PS/MS114Q for taking part in the RWA water safety workshops in their schools this year. This basic instruction will go a long way to reducing drownings in our community.”

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