Officials Urge Swimming Safety as Summer Begins

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School’s out. Summer’s here. Summer safety discussions and preparations are number one on many parents’ list. And one of the first concerns is water safety.

You may not have a pool, but chances are a nearby neighbor does, or there’s a canal around the corner, or your next picnic or outing will take place near a body of water.

“Nationally, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4, and the second leading cause of death for ages 0 to 19 years. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 5 in Miami-Dade County,” says the Miami Dade Coalition to Prevent Drowning.

For every child that drowns, 4 more are hospitalized or are taken to an emergency room for near drowning injuries, according to the data from Miami-Dade County Injury Surveillance System, Drowning and near drowning, age 0 – 4 years, 2000-2006.

The Red Cross recommends proper, age appropriate, swimming lessons as the best family preparation for water safety, but to remember swimming lessons do not drown proof children. Never be more than an arm’s length away from your child.

They also recommend never swimming alone—always use the buddy system, swim only in designated areas and know how to swim, never leave your children unattended near any bodies of water, provide and wear life jackets for all you take boating and have them available for inexperienced swimmers when around any bodies of water or pools (do not depend on them, still keep an eye on your swimming children), don’t get too comfortable when you’re with a community of people—watch your children, and, most of all, establish family rules and enforce them.

For home pools, the Red Cross recommends at least three barriers to the pool such as child-proof door locks, an isolating 4-sided fence, at least 4 feet high, an alarm and Coast Guard approved safety equipment. Don’t allow your summer water fun to become a statistic.

Safeguard your children around bodies of water. “Use the layer approach—always provide adult supervision; have barriers around home pools and alarms; teach children to swim; have someone in the house trained in CPR. Keep a pole or something to throw for rescue and a cell phone by the pool,” Jim O’Connor, Aquatic Safety Coordinator for Miami-Dade Parks , Chair Miami-Dade County Drowning Prevention Coalition, recommends.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teaching children safety in and around water after the age of 1 year. Due to water temperatures, Miami-Dade County begins their swimming lessons at the age of two, O’Connor said.

“When choosing a pool, look for an instructor that is certified by a national organization such as the Red Cross or the YMCA. Make sure the pool is inspected yearly for safety and chemistry and the instructor is certified in CPR and First Aid,” O’Connor said of the most commonly asked questions about where to take swimming lessons.

Miami-Dade County also recommends having your pool inspected by an electrician for electrical problems based on the recommendations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the America Red Cross.

The “Swim for Jenny” organization and memorial fund was created to honor Jenny Nguyen who lost her life in a drowning incident in 2011. iSwim for Jenny fundraisers are held throughout the year to raise awareness and monies for learn-to-swim scholarships toward swimming lessons in pools throughout South Florida. These scholarships are provided to the pools in Miami-Dade County during the summer months.

To date, over 2,000 scholarships have been given in the last three years. Community pools that still have scholarships available for the 2014 summer season are: Richmond Pool, 14375 Boggs Dr, Miami, FL, 33176, 305-238-5692, South Dade Park Helen Sands Swimming Pool, 16350 SW 280th St, Homestead, FL 33031, 305-248-1386, Naranja Pool, 14150 SW 264 St, Homestead, FL, 33032, 305-258-4534, and Gould’s Swimming Pool, 21840 SW 114 Ave, Miami, FL, 33170, 305-233-0537.

iSwim for Jenny fundraiser participants swim laps to raise funds for the learn-to-swim scholarships. If you’re interested in helping raise money during the August 9 – 15, 2014 fundraiser, rules, regulations, pledge and registration forms can be found at