Parents can take simple steps to prevent drownings this summer

Swim instructor and BYU communications alumna Natalie Janes teaches a child how to swim at Mesa Pool in Arizona. She recommends following easy but impactful steps when at the pool and the lake to prevent drownings from happening. (Natalie Janes)

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, three people drowned in Utah reservoirs on June 20. Two of the adults who drowned were swimming without life jackets. Another 37-year-old man drowned in Pineview Reservoir while trying to retrieve his son. On June 27, a 25-year-old man jumped into Pineview Reservoir to help his brother. He was airlifted to a local hospital and was in critical condition as of June 27, the date the article was published.

Jessica Strong, community health manager at Primary Children’s Hospital, told The Salt Lake Tribune that drowning is the second leading cause of death for young children.

BYU communications alumna and swim instructor Natalie Janes said drownings happen every year during the summer, and children are usually at a high risk of drowning. She recommends following easy but impactful steps when at the pool and lake to prevent drownings from happening.

Water safety at pools

1. Teach children to never get into the pool if a parent or adult is not around

Janes said children will try to jump into a pool when an adult is not around, which could lead to them drowning after not receiving immediate help while visibly struggling. She suggested teaching children “pool manners,” like asking for permission before entering the water. This could be a safe way to make sure children don’t go near the pool without adult supervision.

2. Teach children how to get back to the wall

Sitting a child on the edges of the pool before they go in and teaching them how to get back to them in case of emergency is crucial, Janes said. She recommended showing the children what the wall or edge is, where it is, and telling them to return to the wall or the edges whenever they’re scared or close to drowning.

3. Hire a swim instructor

Hiring an instructor to teach children safety is important, Janes said. According to the YMCA, children who participate in swim lessons can have their risk of drowning reduced by 88%. “In my swim lessons with infants and toddlers, I teach them to flip over onto their back, float and get air. Then I teach them how to flip back over on their stomachs and make it back to the wall,” she said. Even just having basic knowledge of swim safety can save children’s lives.

4. Buy Coast Guard-approved water vests

Janes said “puddle jumpers” that strap underneath the legs will keep children safe. Arm floaties, especially ones that fall off, are not appropriate nor safe for children. She said having children wear Coast Guard-approved water vests or life jackets is one of the most sure ways to save lives. According to Recreational Equipment Inc., there are several appropriate life jackets that parents can find for their children, depending on their age and the type of water activities they will be participating in.

5. Don’t be overconfident in children’s swimming abilities

One of the biggest mistakes parents make with their children at pools is having too much confidence in their swimming skills, Janes said. Fear is a big factor in drowning. She said even if the children have taken swim lessons, they can have a freeze response in the water when they are put in certain situations. When children have a freeze response, fear settles in, causing them to lock their joints, making them unable to come up out of the water. This in turn usually leads to drowning.

6. Don’t get distracted while children are in the water

“During public swim hours, parents will get distracted chatting with their friends, not noticing their children are getting close to deeper waters,” Janes said. Watching children and making sure they are safe at all times while they are in the water can prevent drowning or the likelihood of drowning.

Water safety at lakes

1. Have children and adults wear life jackets

While it is important to have children wear life jackets, responsible adults should also be wearing them when at a lake and on a boat. Janes said adults can also drown, but wearing life jackets can decrease these chances significantly.

2. Bring a rescue buoy

When someone is drowning, their immediate reaction is to grab on to the person who is trying to save them and pull them under, Janes said. Having a rescue buoy, a life preserver, or even a pool noodle could assist in saving someone who is drowning, without risking the lives of both the person drowning and the person trying to save them.

3. Teach children boat safety

Tell your children and everyone else where the buoy line is and not to pass it, Janes said. Those who have boats or will be near boats should teach their children about boat safety.

Janes also said to teach children and adults what to do when their water ski gets pulled out. When people fall off their water skis, teaching them to not go anywhere but to stay put until the boat can come around again is important. She said reminding children and adults to get out of the way of boats in case one is close to them could also save lives.

4. Teach children how to float on their backs

Janes said fatigue can occur when children or adults are in the water treading or swimming for longer periods of time. Fatigue can also lead to drowning. Teaching children and adults to float on their backs can help them to pause and to recharge for a bit before paddling out again or treading in the water.

Following these simple steps can help children and adults be safe this summer while participating in water activities.

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