ABCs of Pool Safety

For our education issue, we asked Mark Sheppell, the owner at Goldfish Swim School in Johns Creek, for the ABCs of pool safety:

When it comes to drowning, the statistics are pretty staggering. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death to children ages 1 to 4—and the second leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 14, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, statistics show that thousands of children are hospitalized each year for nonfatal drowning incidents.  Accidents can happen quickly. A child can drown in as little as one inch of water and in as little time as 20 seconds.

Every parent and caregiver needs to keep the following water safety tips in mind:

  • Any time kids are around water, designate a “water watcher” who will avoid cell phones, conversations, magazines and anything else that might distract the adult from watching swimming children EVERY SINGLE SECOND. After all, most children who drown are supervised.
  • The American Red Cross says that the number one thing that parents can do to keep kids safer around water is to enroll them in swim lessons. Swimming is an essential life-saving skill with numerous physical, mental and intellectual benefits.
  • Get swim lessons for yourself or any other caregiver who cannot swim or is afraid of water.
  • Realize that floaties, noodles and plastic inner tubes do NOT protect against drowning. They are created as water toys, not life-saving devices. Life jackets should be designated as U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
  • Know that even the most seasoned swimmers can still encounter trouble. Make sure swimmers don’t overestimate their skills and that they understand the importance of never swimming alone.

In addition to these tips, there are several basic skills that the water safety experts at Goldfish Swim School work on with students every week. Parents can practice these skills with their kids anytime they are in the water together:

  • Work on getting in and out of the pool safely. Elbow, Elbow, Tummy, Knee! Help your little ones learn how to get out of the pool by manipulating their bodies in this order: elbow, elbow, tummy, knee. Practice this often; you can even do this on your living room floor by having your baby climb onto a couch or chair! After you practice, always remember to celebrate. Eventually, your little ones will be strong enough to manage the movement on their own! This is a skill that kids continue to use to safely exit the pool — even when they are older!
  • Jump, Turn, Swim to the Wall! Once he has the movement down, let your child jump off the side of the pool to you, help him physically turn back to the wall and then assist him in getting out of the pool by using the elbow, elbow, tummy, knee method. Do this over and over again.  As he gets more confident, let him go under the water and come to the surface on his own. This teaches kids to automatically turn back to the wall behind them to climb out. If a child were to fall into a pool, this skill could help them find the quickest way to safety.
  • Sea Otter Float. Work with your child on turning over and getting his-her face out of the water to take a breath when he/she fatigues.
  • Treading Water. This is a basic water safety skill that kids can practice to build their endurance!