Swimming safety vital in pool, lake visits

With the summer months ready to heat up the area, water lovers will be heading for lakes, rivers and swimming pools to keep cool. The American Red Cross of the Mahoning Valley wants everyone to have fun, but be safe.

The ARC is advising all people heading to the water to be safe and keep an eye out for one another, especially children and inexperienced swimmers.

Karen Conklin, executive director of the local Red Cross, said learning to swim is important for anyone who enjoys the water.

The local chapter has plans to offer learn to swim and water safety classes this summer at Warren G. Harding High School.

Learn to Swim classes are being offered through the Warren City Schools swimming pool. Four sessions are planned: June 9-19, June 23-July 3, July 7-17, and July 21-31. Different levels will swim at different times between 12:30 and 3 p.m.

Those wanting information and registration forms should contact the ARC at 330-392-2551 or Warren city schools offices at 330-392-2551.

Conklin said families look to the water for summer vacations and want their children to have the lessons prior to families going on vacations to beaches and lakes.

Conklin said statistics show that 68 percent of minority children never learned to swim because their parents never learned.

“This is huge community issue we need to change. Swimming is a lifelong activity that provides a lot of family fun. We encourage everyone to learn to swim. With all the water we have around here with lakes and rivers and with concern of flooding, it is important to know how to swim,” she said.

Conklin said one opportunity for area individuals to help protect those using the water is to become a lifeguard.

”There is always a need for lifeguards in many communities. These individuals are role models and have helped teach children and adults to swim,” Conklin said.

She said lifeguards can earn between $10 and $12 per hour.

Swimming in lakes, rivers and streams can be safe at designated swimming areas that are protected by lifeguards. Conklin said it is always advised to wear a life jacket.

The Red Cross recommends that whenever you are around a body of water, take steps to prepare for the unexpected by wearing a life jacket.

To remain safe this summer, it is important to exercise caution in the water.

The ARC has plenty of advice when it comes to this including learning to swim, avoiding swimming alone and always having inexperienced swimmers and children wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device when around water.

Swimming should be in areas supervised by a lifeguard.

The Red Cross advises reading and obeying all rules and posted signs and any potential hazards, such as deep and shallow areas, currents, obstructions and entry and exit points.

Setting and enforcing rules is essential with the following guidelines:

  • Always swim with a buddy;
  • Always enter unknown or shallow water cautiously, feet first;
  • Dive only in water clearly marked as safe for diving. Diving areas should be at least nine feet deep with no underwater obstacles;
  • Do not enter the water from a height, such as a tree, ledge or brick;
  • Be careful when standing to prevent being knocked over by currents or waves.

Officials recommend that families create rules based on each family member’s swimming abilities for example, inexperienced swimmers should stick to water less than chest deep.

Also, don’t forget to check your local weather forecast. Schedule a water fun day when the weather is supposed to be nice, and stop your water activities at the first sign of bad weather, especially lightning.

No matter how experienced a swimmer your child is, or how shallow the water is, maintain constant supervision. Don’t depend on flotation devices to keep your child safe.

Water safety experts advise it is important to swim only in an area designated for swimming. Swimmers should also always wear a life jacket and also enter the water feet first.

Jay Rosenthal, coordinator of the Summer Learn-to-Swim programs for the American Red Cross, who has also been a swimming instructor in past years, said it is important to swim somewhere it is safe.

He said swimmers also should know their own abilities and make sure they can see the bottom or at least know what is on the bottom, such as glass or other objects.

And for someone swimming at a public pool, just because a lifeguard is on duty does not mean parents or guardians should shirk their responsibilities.

Parents should be in the water with children younger than 5, and should also remain close to the pool with children younger than 12.

Rosenthal said that water safety shouldn’t be limited to home swimming pools but should also include public pools, lakes, ponds and streams.

The YMCA of Warren throughout the year offers a variety of swimming classes for people of all ages. Classes help prepare individuals to be safe no matter what water they are in.

A YMCA spokesman said swimming is provided at the YMCA as part of the Howland summer recreation program held from June to early August.

For more information, visit www.redcross.org or www.ymca.net.