With summer upon us and the warmer weather here for the next few months, swimming pools and water sports will become part of our weekly routine. However, not knowing how to swim can be deadly.
“The more knowledge about aquatic safety and the more skills someone has, the less likely they are to have an aquatic accident,” said Diana Dempsey, aquatics director at the Greater Scranton YMCA.
The Centers for Disease Control notes that in 2014-2015, there were 3,536 drowning deaths in the U.S. (about 10 deaths per day). About one in five of those who drown are children 14 and younger.
Safe Kids, a nonprofit with a goal of preventing injuries to children, says drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children 1 to 4 and the third leading cause of death in people ages 19 and younger.
Dempsey said it’s never too early to have children learn how to swim.
“We start with a parent orientation program when their child is 6 months old,” she said. “It’s not a swim class, but a class to teach kids and their parents to enjoy the water. Eventually, we integrate both parents and children, things like paddling and kicking. It’s a nice gradual introduction.”
She said at 3, formal swim lessons begin with an instructor, and the parents are simply just watching the class. At 6, kids move to the youth program, which goes up to age 14.
“With kids at age 6 and above, and depending on their ability, we also have a competitive swim team,” she said, adding that kids also can participate in the “porpoise club,” where they help the swim instructor.
Dempsey said the Scranton YMCA has year-round swim classes that last eight weeks, and kids come once a week. Those classes are $40 for members and $88 for non-members.
She said during the last week of June, they have their special “Learn to Swim Campaign,” where kids come every day for five days. Dempsey said some kids sign up for one or even both weeks. The program costs $25 per week, for both members and non-members.
She said every time she hears about a drowning, her heart sinks.
“It’s so preventable,” she said. “We teach them right from the get-go that if they fall in, they can get to safety by pushing themselves off the bottom and reaching for the sides.”
She said very simple techniques can save a life.
Dempsey said the classes also cover boating safety, and that everyone in the boat should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, regardless of age or swimming ability.
“Water accidents are so easily avoidable,” she said. “Hopefully people will understand that knowledge helps to prevent tragedy. The more you know, the less likely you are to panic.”