Being in, on and around water consistently rank as some of the most popular activities during summer in the United States, and that’s certainly true in Kenosha, as well.
Although public pools are unavailable due to COVID-19, the Safety Around Water Coalition continues to meet and believes that the urgency for creating awareness for water safety may be greater than ever.
During a virtual meeting with representatives from the Kenosha YMCA, Kenosha Fire Department, Kenosha Police Department, Dive Team, KACVB and others, the group discussed the summer swimming risks. No use of public pools with lifeguards means more and more people will be in backyard pools, at the beaches and swimming in lakes.
It is important to remember there are dangerous currents in popular local areas that should be avoided. Please heed the warning signs.
There is a city ordinance that prohibits swimming within 50 feet of the north pier that carries a $1,000 fine. Kenosha’s iconic pier and Pike River mouth have the unfortunate distinction of leading the area in drowning deaths. While the drowning rate nationally is highest for children under 5 years old, it is also a leading cause of accidental death for people of all ages.
Parents, friends and peers will need to act as lifeguards for each other. Understanding and applying water safety and drowning prevention actions are more important than ever.
Drowning prevention is based on a concept known as water competency, which is about having “water smarts,” water skills and knowing how to help others.
“Fortunately, most drowning situations can be avoided with good planning, being prepared and using water smarts,” says Beth Volbrecht, Kenosha YMCA aquatics director, “Water smarts means knowing the risks around water and how to reduce those risks.”
No one action can be relied upon to prevent drowning. The Kenosha YMCA Safety Around Water program outlines layers of protection that are essential:
1. Never leave children alone near a pool, spa, bathtub, bucket or any standing water in which a child’s nose or mouth may be submerged.
2. Stay within arm’s reach of young children in the water.
3. Swim near a lifeguard.
4. Reach or throw, don’t go, to help a swimmer who is in trouble.
5. Obey posted signs.
6. Inexperienced swimmers and non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket around water.
7. Children should STAY AWAY from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapment.
8. Assign an adult “water watcher” who is committed to actively supervising the pool area. This means they may not talk on a cellphone, read a book or otherwise be distracted.
9. Enroll children in swim lessons and learn to swim yourself.
10. Alcohol consumption and swimming do not go well together.
11. Learn CPR.
“Children and adults should take swim lessons at least until they can achieve water competency in whatever environment they’re swimming in,” Volbrecht said. “Being water competent in one environment, such as a pool, does not mean that you’ll be competent and safe in a different environment, like a lake or river. It’s important to understand that, even with good swimming skills, no one is ever drown-proof.”
Water competency also includes knowing how to respond in an emergency. A drowning person has the greatest chance of survival if the following steps are followed:
Recognizing the signs of someone in trouble in the water and calling for help;
Rescuing and removing that person from the water — without having to enter the water or putting yourself in danger — such as by reaching or throwing an object;
Calling emergency medical services (9-1-1) to get help on the way;
And using an AED (if it’s available) then transferring care to advanced life support.
The Kenosha YMCA will be offering its Safety Around Water course virtually soon. The program focuses on developing an awareness of the risks of drowning and how to minimize those risks, especially for young children. It teaches parents and caregivers about water safety in common environments and situations where children are most at risk for drowning.
Chris Finkel is development director at the Kenosha YMCA.
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