By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Westborough – This summer, the YMCA wants people to remember that “71 percent of the world is water, and children are 100 percent curious,” said Elizabeth A. Moquin, director of marketing and advancement at the Central Massachusetts Boroughs Family Branch.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, not only do children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, but for children 1 to 14, “drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.”
But the good news is there are steps parents can take to protect their children. Jeff Hall, communications specialist for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, and Moquin offered nine tips to keep kids safe this summer.
1. Register your children for swimming lessons: Hall says the American Red Cross of Massachusetts encouraged “parents to get their children in swim classes at local area pools.” Moquin agrees. She said that “it is important that everyone take lessons for safety reasons, even if it isn’t an activity they continue in their adulthood. It is equally important for parents, grandparents and adult caregivers to be comfortable in the water. Each year, we teach hundreds of adults who decide to take lessons, because they have become parents or grandparents and they now realize that they need to be competent swimmers.”
2. Get Coast Guard-approved floatation devices for inexperienced swimmers: “It is tempting to purchase items at gift shops while on vacation, but it is important to keep in mind that those items are typically designed for play and not for safety,” Moquin noted.
3. Stay within arm’s reach of your young children: “Statistically, 60 percent of children who drown are within 10 feet of safety,” said Moquin. “Also, 88 percent of children who drown do so under adult supervision.”
4. Never let children or teens swim alone: In addition to this tip, Moquin advised only allowing children to swim at a place where a lifeguard is on duty.
5. Watch your children carefully: Moquin said that in a world where our phones can so easily distract us, it’s important for parents to “constantly and actively watch their children.”
6. Wear your life jackets: Moquin believes that it’s important for parents to set a good example for their children. She said that if parents take their children on boats, it’s a good idea for them to serve as role models by wearing their life jackets, too.
7. Secure pools with life-saving equipment and self-latching fences at least 4 feet high: Moquin explained it’s important to “secure your backyard pool and encourage your neighbors to do so, too.” Additional tips can be found on the Pool Safely website, www.poolsafely.gov.
8. Make sure children know what they’re diving into: “If you are in open water, know what is below and always be careful when diving,” Moquin advised.
9. Make sure children know the five basic swimming skills: “The Red Cross found that while 80 percent of Americans said they could swim, only 56 percent of the self-described swimmers can perform all five of the basic skills for swimming ability,” Hall said. “Those five basic skills are: step or jump into water over their head, return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute, turn around in a full circle and find an exit, swim 25 yards without stopping, and exit from the water.” He added that swimmers should be able to get out of pools without using ladders.