Each year an average of 117 Georgians fall victim to drowning. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children ages one to 4 years and 15 to 24 years have a significantly higher risk for drowning than Georgians in other age groups. It is also ranked fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.
The Thomasville YMCA is doing its part to educate both adults and children on staying safe in the water this summer. All year the YMCA holds swimming lessons — except for the month of December.
“During this time of year, we are packed with lessons to educate both kids and adults in swimming,” said YMCA aquatics director Amber Sorensen. “We will teach children as young as six months old to people who want to swim until they can’t swim anymore.”
The YMCA’s swimming lessons deal with water safety and teach students what to do in case of an emergency. On certain days, the instructors teach boat safety and general swimming lessons.
“One important thing we teach our students when they are first starting out with swimming is getting back to the side of the pool. We do this with safety jumps, which is the student jumping off the side of the pool and being able to return to the wall. It’s about building muscles and being able to return safely to the wall. That’s the safest place they can be,” Sorensen said.
The lifeguards at the YMCA are highly trained and continue their training throughout their time as lifeguards. They are trained in dealing with emergencies that could occur while YMCA patrons are in the water.
“Our lifeguards are trained to deal with drowning incidents. One way we train them is by using a dummy that resembles the shape and size of a seven or eight-year old boy. We can also add weight to the dummy,” said Sorensen. “They are trained to retrieve the dummy by diving anywhere from nine to 12 feet.”
Each lifeguard has to complete four hours of training per month along with CPR certification each year.
According to the YMCA aquatics director, it is important to be able to identify the signs of someone who is drowning.
“Drowning is nothing like the movies. It is when water is filling the lungs and it will cause the person to be unable to speak, unlike what the movies show of someone flapping around and making noise. When they are flapping around and making noise, they are in distress— not drowning,” said Sorensen.
Another sign is that the person will have big glassy eyes.
Sorensen also said, “It takes less than 10 seconds for someone to drown in less than a teaspoon of water.”
While giving swimming lessons, the YMCA lifeguards and instructors teach the children the “reach and assist” method. They are taught to throw a swimming noodle or whatever they can find to the person in distress. For adults, they are told ‘when in doubt, check it out.’
Adults and parents are cautioned never to leave a child of any age by themselves in any body of water— even if the child is wearing water wings and other floatation devices.
Children should be accustomed to the water at an early age.
“It’s important to get children used to the water so they aren’t afraid,” instructed Sorensen. “Teaching children is much easier than teaching an adult.”
She also instructed adults who are with children who may go under water to not panic. It is important to not let the child be afraid of the water.
Sorensen said, “If they do go under the water— praise them. Instruct them on kicking harder, etc. Don’t panic and neither will they.”
Teaching children how to float can also prevent dangers in the water.
She said, “I teach children to float by telling them their lungs are beach balls and to take a deep breath and release.”
It is important for the child or adult not to tense up. Tension in the body will cause them to sink.
“Getting used to laying on your back in water will help with floating,” added Sorensen.
All adults should know how to do CPR, whether they are certified or not, in case of an emergency.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR should be done if the person is not breathing.
It consists of five cycles of 30 compressions to every two breaths. Each five cycle should last two minutes. An easy way to remember the process is C.A.B.— compressions, airway and breath. For more information on CPR, visit the American Heart Association web site at www.heart.org.
Summer should be fun— and safe. The Weston YMCA has opened its community pool for the summer. The public pool is open for the entire community at a small fee. Non-members are welcome. More information can be found on YMCA swim lessons for adults and children at www.ymca-thomasville.org.
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.