Way back in another life I was a lifeguard. I spent my college years putting money in the bank watching over people playing in the water for 60 hours a week in the summer, and 20 hours a week the rest of the school year for most of my college life. Then when I started to go back to work after kids, I found myself poolside again. So by this time in my life I’ve been the woman scanning the pool for trouble, the casual swimmer, and the mom chasing kids on the deck. And as such, I’ve got a few things to share with you about pools and lifeguards.
Lifeguards ARE the authority on how people can get injured in and around pools.
Listen to them. Teach your kids to listen and respect them. They are looking out for you and your kids, really! Make a lifeguard’s day-back them up!
I can’t say this enough. Pools mean water, wet pool decks and wet feet and when those all meet- it makes for slippery conditions, and nothing good comes from speeding that process up. Whether it’s a scraped knee, a bruised rear or a thumped head-it can all be avoided by the reminder to WALK!
Lifeguards watch the whole pool and everyone in it. At all times.
They scan the pool back and forth looking for problems. They glance over every person in the pool, their eyes landing on each person for the merest moment, looking for a problem. So if you have a child that is not a strong swimmer or not a swimmer at all, WATCH THEM!! Do not assume that you can throw your kid in the pool and walk away because there is a lifeguard. The lifeguard is not going to sit there with their eyes glued to your child alone- that is your job. I have literally watched my own child walk in to the water to a depth over her head and step in to water over her head, more than once. She couldn’t swim, and she kept going anyway. Luckily, I was right there to fish her out. It happens. By the time it caught a lifeguard’s attention she could very likely have been lost to us.
Drowning happens quickly and more often than not without fanfare.
If you think you are going to see a person wildly calling for help, you are mistaken. It more often happens quickly and quietly. People desperate for air rarely waste it calling out for help. If you see someone who looks like they might be struggling- call attention to them and reach an arm out if it’s safe to do so.
Get your kids lessons, and make sure they know how to self-rescue.
Talk to your kids about how they can help themselves. I taught swim lessons for years. You would be amazed at how many kids need to be taught just put their feet down to the bottom of the pool or reach out the few inches for the side of the pool. If you do not have strong swimmers, make sure they know about pool safety. Teach them how to help themselves if they end up accidentally going in to the water or getting in to water that is deeper than they thought. Just like fire drills and other safety precautions, talking about things ahead of time can help in a moment of panic. Give them the ideas of how they can help themselves so that in a moment of panic, they can come up with a plan.
Remember kids feed off of you. If you are panicking, they will panic. A calm voice and calm directions in a moment of trouble will resolve it quickly. But then again, I give that advice out for almost any kid in trouble!
Pools are a great place to have fun and cool off, but a little bit of respect for the potential of trouble can go a long way. Having an awareness of basic safety will make sure that all trips to the pool are fun. We love the pool and have a blast there, in part by my vigilance and respect for the potential pitfalls. Which is not to say that my kids have never run on the pool deck (uh, yesterday I think!), gone down the slide the wrong way (only resulted in six stitches!), and are closely guarded at all times. But, I do my best every time to make sure that we can go and have a fun and safe time!