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Water Safety for the Whole Family

Saint Mary’s Fitness Center put together this great question and answer series to help your family get ready for summer. Saint Mary’s swim instructor, and Olympian, Nebojsa Bikic, answers your burning questions below:

  • What are some of the greatest risks when families go out to spend time together at the water or even near a pool?
    • Since a person can drown in less than an inch of water, any body of water can represent a risk. Strong currents or waves on a beach, collisions during boating, accidental slips and falls into any body of water, even unsupervised kiddie pools, toilets, and cleaning buckets can represent a hazard. There are lots of things parents or caregivers can do to prevent an accident, but the most important one is supervision. Even with a lifeguard present, there should be a designated individual to provide constant supervision of children who are in or around water.
  • Are their particular concerns that parents should be aware of at water parks, such as wave pools?
    • Even for experienced swimmers, swimming in wave pools can be challenging. Beside close supervision, recommendation for the inexperienced children is to wear a life jacket even at such venues.
  • What steps can parents taken to make sure their children stay safe? Many people know about the Buddy System, but is this good enough?
    • Enroll children in water safety and swimming courses ideally at a young age. Take a boating safety course if planning on spending time on a boat. Teach them not to go near the water without an adult. Do not rely on substitutes like water rings, inflatable toys and such. The buddy system is a great thing to teach children at young age, but nothing should substitute adult supervision of children in or near any body of water.
  • Can areas of water, such as lakes or rivers, be more dangerous than pools?
    • Lots of natural bodies of water like ponds, lakes, canals, etc., are unsupervised and/or unsecured. Aquatic life, currents, entrapment hazards and other elements can make swimming in these areas dangerous. These areas can become especially dangerous for adventurous older children with their growing independence.
  • At what age might it be OK to stop watching kids in a backyard pool, given that they know how to swim? When they become teenagers? What kind of risks are inherent in backyard pools? (I’m always concerned about my daughter’s hair getting stuck in drainage no matter where we go — is a cap a good thing?)
    • The one thing to remember is that safety of any one person at your home pool or spa is your responsibility. Also, knowing accidents can happen at any age in life and that most of the drowning accidents are preventable I would recommend – never. Diving accidents are most common in the backyard pools. Trying to hold breath for too long, rough play, slips and falls, poorly designed drainage systems, all represent real threats to safety. In recent years in water related accidents, consumption of alcohol is fast becoming serious issue. Either as a swimmer or before and/or during supervision of others you should avoid drinking alcohol. Wearing a cap nowadays is optional at most public pools. New laws are making pools and spas much safer places for recreation and enjoyment, but wearing a cap can just add to your peace of mind.
  • Any other thoughts, comments?
    • There is no such thing as a water safe or drown proof child, this especially stands for the younger ones, so never leave them unattended. Be a good role model – take the water and boating safety classes and follow the rules.



About Lindsey Sanford

Lindsey Sanford
I’m an ultimate Frisbee loving, marketing exec who loves Reno a little too much. I knit, I read, I write, and I love long walks on the beach. I’m trying out this new “standing-desk” thing – and finding that it’s not quite so bad. I’m a recent mom of two, my little one was born on September 21st, and I still can’t sleep. Above all else, I believe in being honest with our struggles, to paint a more accurate picture of what motherhood means – leading to a supportive community of fellow swimmers.

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