By Debbie Deutsch,
Special contributor to Navy Installations Command Public Affairs
Did you know that a child can drown in as little as one inch of water and in as quickly as 20 seconds? Pretty scary statistic, isn’t it? Do you want to know something even scarier? Drowning is typically not like we see in the movies. You know the ones I’m talking about… flailing arms with loud cries for help until the gallant lifeguard swims out to their rescue. Sadly, drowning often occurs quietly and often unseen. In fact, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, one in five instances of drowning occurs in public pools with lifeguards present. Let that sink in for a minute…one in five with lifeguards present!
While we can continue to throw more alarming statistics at you, we believe that it is more important to educate our parents and our youth on the importance of drowning prevention. In doing so, we have launched the Navy Fitness Drowning Prevention Campaign: SPLASH. Through SPLASH, Navy Fitness strives to educate our patrons on pool safety with six key Aquatic safety principles:
- Stay within arm’s reach. The first line of defense in prevention of an unintentional drowning is you. As a parent, it is your responsibility to watch your child/children while you are at the pool or waterfront. All non-swimmers must be within arm’s reach at all times of their parents.
- Protect your non-swimmers. Water wings and other inflatable floats and devices are not designed to save your child, nor allowed in our Navy MWR Aquatic facilities. “Floaties” often provide children and parents with a false sense of safety, which can prove to be dangerous and even fatal. All non-swimmers who are unable to maintain their head and shoulders above water in the shallow end and who wish to use the pool are encouraged to be in a Coast Guard approved life jacket and must remain within arm’s reach of their parent at all times.
- Learn to swim. Research shows a reduction in the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent among children ages one to four years old by participation in formal swim lessons. We have experienced and certified instructors available to provide swim lessons for all ages. Whether it’s for your five year old, 15 year old, or even yourself, remember, you’re never too old to learn how to swim.
- Assess swim skills. Proper skill assessment is vital in ensuring the safety of children. All youth 17 and under that wish to use the deep end of the pool, including slides and diving board, must be assessed prior to entering the pool with the new Navy Youth Swim Test.
- Swim safely. A day at the pool or beach is fun. However, as much as it is fun, it needs to be safe. Water games are acceptable, but games that include extended breath holding are not authorized. Remember, even the strongest swimmers and elite athletes can die using breath holding techniques and games. Stay safe, swim safe.
- Hang it up. No tweet, status update, text or phone call is worth risking a child’s drowning and/or possible death. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that injuries involving swimming pools climbed 36 percent in children under five years old between 2007 and 2010, a time period in which adult smartphone use also skyrocketed. Eliminate those unnecessary distractions, keep sight of your child at all times, and simply, enjoy the time with your children.
For more information on SPLASH, visit www.navyfitness.org or visit our Facebook page: Splash: Navy Fitness Drowning Prevention Campaign.
Editor’s note: Debbie Deutsch is a Fitness and Aquatics Specialist for the Navy Fitness program under Navy Installations Command.