Water safety begins with knowing how to swim - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

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Water safety begins with knowing how to swim

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Posted: Sunday, July 3, 2011 12:00 pm

As a parent, I often find myself guilty of the “do as I say, not as I do” trick. I confess to telling my kids how important it is to get a good night’s sleep, but I sometimes stay up late watching TV myself. I talk about how important it is to be prepared for a school day, but forget to plan for my own day at work. And, I tell them to try new things, but I sometimes stay with what’s comfortable.

Developing our new parent program, “Playing it Safe,” has been a challenge for me. Existing programs are easy, mostly. New ideas mean taking risks, planning for the unexpected, stretching my wings.

“What if it fails?” I ask myself. “What if no one will participate?”

We started more than a year ago with research, then developed and piloted the program, and now we’re offering it to the community. I told myself to be brave and take chances. And it’s gotten a great reception – there are plenty of requests from the community, and after every single session I get positive feedback and a good feeling that I’m making a difference.

One of the most surprising things I’ve learned from talking to parents is just how many adults do not know how to swim.

This is not something people admit when they first speak to a stranger, and maybe that’s why I haven’t heard it spoken of, until now. When we talk about drowning prevention in small groups, we share our stories and solutions, and begin to get to know each other, and that’s when a parent feels comfortable enough to mention it. I’d estimate that one or two out of every 10 parents I speak with can’t swim.

A tragic case in Glendale recently illustrates how important it is for adults to talk about this subject. Last month, a 37-year-old mother jumped into her pool because she thought her 5-year-old son needed to be rescued. She could not swim, and by the time she was rescued, her injuries were so severe that she ultimately died.

We always include supervision when we talk about drowning prevention. But I’m urging parents to take a hard look at who can be their “Water Watcher.” Children need constant, capable supervision when they are near the water. “Capable” means old enough to supervise, sober, aware of who is in charge, able to give CPR and able to swim.

My grandmother did not know how to swim, and never learned. She missed out on the simple pleasure of kicking across the pool on a hot summer day, and was not as safe around the pool as she could have been.

It’s awfully hot out there right now, folks. Don’t stay up too late watching TV on these sweltering summer nights and prepare ahead of time for your work day. Also, try something new, and if you don’t know how to swim, I think you know exactly where to start.

• Tiffaney Isaacson is the water safety coordinator for Water Watchers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Reach her at (602) 546-1712.

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