When most of us think about someone drowning in a pool, we visualize that person flailing their arms and calling for help. But I recently saw a TV news report about drowning that used actual surveillance video to show what people in trouble really look like in the water. And it’s not the Hollywood treatment we would expect. Instead, it’s something that can happen quickly, without thrashing or calls for help. But unless you know what to look for, it’s easy to miss the signs, and the results can be disastrous; more than 3,500 Americans drown in pools each year, and two-thirds of them are under three years of age.
Cranberry’s Waterpark, now in its twentieth year, has never had a person drown. But the very possibility is something that motivates our Parks & Recreation staff’s commitment to safety. That’s because they know that despite the presence of highly trained lifeguards, children drown every year, including some in guarded pools. So our Waterpark personnel have gone to great lengths to make sure that one of Cranberry’s greatest attractions continues its generation-long history of safety.
Part of that involves extensive training of its lifeguards, whose work shifts include 16 lifeguards on duty at any given time – even more on especially busy days. This year alone, more than 60 rescues have taken place in the pool, and that was only during the first half of its three-month season. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad sign; not all of those rescued were actually in trouble. Instead, lifeguards are instructed to take action if they even suspect that someone could be struggling.
Yet even with a top-notch lifeguard staff, the key to child safety is parental supervision of children. It is particularly important for parents of children younger than seven to recognize that they are the first line of defense against drowning accidents. To help, Waterpark staff members strongly recommend that parents join their children in the water, regardless of their swimming abilities, and keep non-swimmers within arms-reach at all times.
In addition, the Waterpark staff has re-named the 15-minutes each hour formerly designated as “adult swim” as “safety break.” The idea behind it is to keep children from becoming exhausted in the pool, which can be deadly. New informational signs are being posted around the pools and in the changing rooms. Guests are requested to sign a non-binding safety pledge as they enter the Waterpark. Temporary tattoos with safety messages are available for children. And pool staff members are being encouraged to share safety messages with guests.
That said, however, three-quarters of all the pool drownings occur in backyard pools. So making sure that Cranberry’s private pools are as safe as possible is an integral part of our municipal code. Central to that effort are barrier requirements including fencing and design features that make it difficult for someone to access the pool without the owner’s permission. Children who don’t know how to swim but manage to sneak into private pools, are a major source of drowning victims.
What it all means is that vigilance, knowing how to swim, taking frequent breaks, and staying in the water with your young children are all keys to having a safe, fun pool experience this summer.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about water safety as well. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org