As Memorial Day has arrived, swimming pools have opened everywhere. A drowning can occur at any time during the year, but the probability of drowning goes up during the warmer months. The more people in the water, the greater the chance that someone may get in trouble. Death by drowning is preventable and it is my hope that those who read this will heed my warnings and have a great summer.
As in many circumstances where children are concerned, parental supervision is a vital part of drowning prevention. Parents should constantly watch their child. Lifeguards are not babysitters, but rescuers. Lifeguards who have to watch people’s children are unable to do the job with which they are tasked properly. Children are drawn to water and seem to have no fear to jump in, no matter how deep the water is.
A means of drowning prevention is to introduce your children to the water very early on. There are places in our area that offer aquatic activities for the youngest children and moms or dads. Swim lessons are vital to teaching people how to swim and feel comfortable in the water. People need to know their limitations where water is concerned.
Alcohol and the water do not go together at all. Those who drink beer or liquor would completely disagree with me, but I do not care. Some of the worst boating accidents in Virginia history have occurred because the boat operator had been drinking. One of the drowning incidents that I responded to during my career involved drinking at a pool party. Alcohol causes usually normal people to do stupid things.
Floatation devices are necessary items in some pool settings and absolutely necessary in all boating situations. Whether a person swims well or not, there are always situations where floatation devices are warranted. The important things are that floatation devices must be in good repair, readily accessible and able to be donned easily. If the first time that you put on a life jacket is when you are about to drown, chances are that you are not going to put it on properly.
I responded to two overdue fishermen after the wind in the Pamlico Sound went from zero to 40 knots in a split second. Wearing lifejackets, both of these men drowned and were not found for three days.
I had the opportunity to work with some great people and organizations in the field of aquatic safety when I was the community programs coordinator for Chesterfield Fire & EMS. There were tremendous efforts made to bridge the gap between the aquatic world and the fire service. One of the things that I learned about water safety was to attempt to touch as many people as possible with education. This is not fail-proof. I even saw people, had been touched by our water safety efforts, lose their lives. The bottom line is that, in order to prevent a drowning, we must be vigilant to prevent them at all costs.