With the arrival of summer, many area residents will be having some fun in the sun at area pools, and on beach and lake vacations. Area experts say water safety should be a top priority, especially for parents of young children, who will be enjoying the pool, lake or ocean this summer.
Jesse Royall is the aquatics director at the Yadkin Family YMCA, which has both an indoor pool and an outside waterpark. Royall said that even at pools or the beach with a lifeguard on duty, parents should pay very close attention to their child while in the water.
“Be very mindful of where your children are,” Royall said. “Lifeguards are responsible for people’s safety, but they are not babysitters. Parents should be watching their own child. They are the best set of eyes that can be available. If a child gets in trouble, mom or dad should be the first one to know about it.”
Royall said that special attention also should be paid to the type of flotation devices that are used for children who cannot swim.
“A child that can’t swim should be in some kind of life jacket,” Royall said. “Inflatable devices are very unsafe. They have new devices that are made out of material that floats without being inflated. They are much safer because they will not deflate.”
Royall also said that children who can’t swim should be in a device that will keep the child’s head above water. He said that inflatable devices like arm floaties that many children wear in the pool, would not necessarily prevent a child from drowning as they only provide flotation to the arm and not the head.
Kenton McCollum, who as served for two years as a lifeguard at the Yadkin County Pool, also said that parents should keep a close eye on children while playing at the pool.
When visiting pools without lifeguards, such as most hotel pools, Royall said that parents should be even more cautious.
“At hotel pools parents really need to be the most alert,” he said. “Sitting on the side of the pool sunning themselves with a book in front of their face and not watching their child is very dangerous.”
Caleb Poplin, manager of the Yadkin County Pool, said that visitors to any pool should play close attention to posted rules and follow them carefully. Poplin also said that listening to the lifeguards was very important.
“The number one thing for us is paying attention to the lifeguards and doing what they say,” Poplin said. “They are trained to keep everybody safe.”
Not running on the deck of the pool was another important rule that Poplin noted. He said he knew it was an unpopular rule among the younger visitors, but one that is vital to the safety of those enjoying the pool to prevent slips and falls.
McCollum and Royall also cautioned those relaxing in and near the water this summer to apply plenty of sunscreen.
Royall said he noticed many visitors to the YMCA waterpark applying sunscreen as soon as they arrived, but said a closer inspection of the application directions for sunscreen tell another story.
“The first application should be 30 minutes before you get to the pool or ocean because it needs to get in to the skin,” Royall said. “If you apply it and immediately get in to the water, it’s gone.”
Royall said sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours.
Other safety tips that were mentioned, included only jumping in feet first in pools unless it is at least nine feet deep. For those who will be taking a boat out this summer on the lake or ocean, Royall said that life jackets should be worn at all times.
“Life jackets are meant to be worn. Don’t just have them in the boat. They do not help you if you are under water and they are on the top,” Royall said.
He also cautioned adults who will be imbibing alcoholic beverages this summer while on vacation to do so in moderation if they plan to be near the water.
For more information about swimming lessons at the YMCA, visit ymcanwnc.org/2011/12/swim-lessons-3/. The Yadkin County Pool also offers swimming lessons. The Yadkin County Pool is located beside the Yadkin Family YMCA in Yadkinville. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $3 for Yadkin County residents. For more information, call 336- 679-4229.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.