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WATCH NOW: Water safety event teaches drowning prevention and other water safety tips

David Benjamin shot out of the red slide at Washington Park Pool and straight into the pool. He then started to bob up and down in the water, seemingly unable to stay afloat.

That was the scene at the beginning of a water safety demonstration as part of a Washington Park Pool Family Swim and Water Safety event Friday. It was sponsored by the City of Kenosha and presented in cooperation with the Kenosha Safety Around Water Coalition.

“He knows what to do is remind himself how to flip ... he has now gone onto his back,” said Seth Weidmann, the head men’s swimming and diving coach at Carthage College, who was narrating the demonstration. “That leaning back motion allows him now to float, figure out where he is and figure out how to get back to shore.”

The “flip, float, follow” method was emphasized throughout the water safety event as the most important tip to remember.

“The emphasis is, if you want to survive a water emergency, you have to stay at the surface and continue breathing for as long as possible for either self rescue or for professional rescue to arise,” said Dave Benjamin, the co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Search and Rescue Project (and David’s dad).

“So if you can get over the initial signs of drowning panic attack, and you don’t submerge in that first minute — and if you could float for two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes — you’re buying more time for either self rescue or professional rescue to arrive,” he said.

He emphasized people may know how to swim, but usually don’t have the endurance to prevent themselves from drowning in a lake.

“Most people assume that knowing how to swim (means) that you (couldn’t) drown,” he said. “But most people don’t associate swimming as an endurance sport.”

Danger not limited to Lake Michigan

Tyler Cochran, a Kenosha Police officer, said there has been extra emphasis on the dangers of swimming in parts of the lakefront, but the same” flip, float, follow” method works in inland lakes and pools as well.

“We’ve always really hit that lakefront as being so dangerous, but we’ve never really talked about the inland lakes,” Cochran said. “We’re trying to spread that message, like just at a pool, to make sure you’re practicing that same water safety that you’re practicing down at the lake.”

Benjamin said the signs of a drowning person are typically the person is facing shore, mouth is at water level, head is tilted back, the body is vertical and the person will be making a ladder-climbing motion.

“You’re going to submerge in less that one minute,” Dave said.

In a presentation given before the demonstration, Weidmann gave the following safety tips:

The pier (and pike river) is not for play;

When in doubt don’t go out;

Flip, float, follow;

Reach and throw, don’t go;

Don’t just pack it, wear your life jacket;

Know what drowning looks like.

Swimming lesson programs available

Cindy Altergott, CEO of the Kenosha YMCA, echoed those tips, along with recommending swimming lessons.

“One thing we have at the Y is the ability to offer reduced-rate swim lessons through a couple of different programs,” Altergott said. “We have our scholarship program and the centennial program with the Red Cross, so even if someone doesn’t have the ability to afford swim lessons, we can provide them.”

Benjamin and Cochran also recommended swimming lessons.

“I think if we all remember that there are dangers along with the fun, we can build a healthy respect for it,” Altergott said. “No one wants to stop having fun in the water, but we have to try to build that healthy respect. That’s what events like this do.. (It) reaches out and brings education to the community.”

Dave said water safety is not taught in the same way other public health issues are addressed.

“We don’t have a water safety school curriculum, but we have other curriculums for public health issues like fires, tornadoes, school shootings and earthquakes,” Dave said. “So it’s very important that we have face-to-face interaction with people about water safety.”


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