May is Water Safety Month. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children — and it’s something that SwimWest wants to raise awareness about, to help with prevention. As a parent to three young children, my absolute favorite milestone was the day each of them learned to swim. Even though they are now strong swimmers (thanks to lessons they started at SwimWest at a young age!), I still keep a close on eye on them when we are around water.
Karen Kittleson, owner and operator at SwimWest Swim School in Madison, WI, is sharing some important water safety tips — along with a story of WHY water safety hits so close to home for her.
Madison Mom has partnered with SwimWest since 2013 — they offer lessons in both Fitchburg and West Madison. They have served our community for over 30 years.
Your greatest water safety assurance comes from adopting and practicing as many safety steps as possible. Adding an extra safety step around the water can make all the difference. You can never know which safety step will save a life – until it does…
Stay close, be alert and watch
- Always watch your children, never leave them unattended, and put your personal electronics down.
- Put your child in a learn to swim program; the earlier the better. A 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics study showed that early swim training lowers drowning rates in children.
- Teach children to swim with a buddy, never alone.
- Rely on fences around home pools as a safety measure, not a safety guarantee.
- Do not count on floatation devices to keep your child safe. They will never replace parental supervision or a ‘learn to swim’ program.
Children drown without a sound, supervise with your eyes!
Don’t allow your children to play near the pool or any body of water while you are busy doing backyard chores, reading or playing on your personal mobile device.
Many people don’t realize that drowning is actually silent… it’s not screaming and splashing around like many assume.
- Always wear an approved life jacket that fits securely regardless of the distance to be traveled, the size of the boat, or swimming ability. Be a good role model for your children.
- Tell someone where you are going, when you will be back, and take a cell phone.
- Watch for dangerous weather, and don’t get too close to the dams.
- Never mix boating with alcohol.
Drownings can happen in the place where we feel safest, our homes. In the ten seconds it takes to cross the room for a towel; a child can become submerged in the bathtub. In the two minutes it takes to answer the phone, that child can lose consciousness. In the four to six minutes it takes to sign for a package at the front door, permanent brain damage can happen.
Water Safety in the Home
- Never leave babies and toddlers alone near toilets, bathtubs or buckets of water. Close the toilet seat.
- Empty all wading pools immediately after use along with buckets and containers. Turn the wading pool upside down outside so it doesn’t collect rainwater.
- Lock all hot tub covers, and if the child is missing, check your pool and hot tub first.
- Learn CPR!
Knowing how and where children drown, as well as the concrete steps you can take to avoid danger may make a life and death difference in your family. Enjoy water activities but do so safely!
My Story, My ‘Why’
My dad, my brother and my nephew went fishing off a bridge on Memorial Day. They had brought all the necessities to fish: poles, bait, a bucket and snacks. Unfortunately, they forgot the most important thing that could have saved my dad’s life – life jackets. My nephew fell off the bridge into the frigid, mucky deep creek – and my dad and brother jumped in to save him. My dad was a good, fit swimmer – but after three submersions to find my nephew, he became tired and he slowly slipped under the water. As my brother held my terrified nephew in his arms, he could only watch as our dad slowly lost his battle for life. My brother and nephew were rescued and treated for hypothermia, and five days later we attended my dad’s funeral.
Having learned that one missed step could take a life, I made safety a number one concern in our ‘Learn to Swim’ programs at SwimWest. We incorporat a lesson dedicated solely to safety during every session. Knowing how to prevent, recognize and respond to emergencies is a powerful tool!
Please take the time to talk to your families about these water safety tips.
Written by: Karen Kittelson Clay – Owner/operator at SwimWest Swim School