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NEWS | June 17, 2011

Safe pool season requires swimming skills, watchful eyes

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

Water sport accidents and drownings typically account for the second highest number of fatalities during the Air Force's Critical Days of Summer, but by following a few guidelines, Airmen can keep themselves and their families safe when they're at the pool, lake or ocean.

Safety in the water begins with learning how to swim, Tech. Sgt. Connie Lowe, 502nd Air Base Wing Operation Location-B Safety Office ground safety technician, said.

"Formal swimming lessons can prevent both young and old from drowning," she said.

Randolph's south pool, located next to the Rambler Fitness Center, offers
lessons during the summer, Valerie Gunter, 902nd Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation manager, said.

"Each session consists of eight classes and runs Monday through Thursday for two weeks," she said. "We also have one session of Saturday lessons that runs for eight consecutive Saturday mornings."

Classes are offered twice a day, 8-11 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. The Saturday session, which is already under way, runs through July 30. The next weekly session begins Monday and concludes June 30. Other weekly sessions are planned July 4-14, July 18-28 and Aug. 1-11.

Ms. Gunter said families who have a pool pass pay $25 per child per session; those who do not have a pool pass pay $50 per child per session.

She said safety is a primary consideration at both of Randolph's pools.

"The lifeguards are briefed on safety pretty much daily, but they are required to attend at least an hour of in-service a week where we go over any concerns and brief many different topics that are safety related," Ms. Gunter said. "I tend to go a little overboard on training, but it pays off."

Other safety guidelines are requiring children between the ages of 11 and 13 to pass a swimming test to be allowed in the pool without a parent and setting aside 10 minutes at the end of each hour for children to get out of the pool and take a rest period.

Sergeant Lowe said there are ways parents can ensure their children's safety when they're at private pools or at a body of water such as a lake, river or ocean. She said parents should know cardiopulmonary resuscitation, place barriers around the pool or bodies of water that children are attracted to and designate a list of dependable adults as "water watchers."

"No one really wants to sit and watch the kids in the pool all day, so schedule one-hour intervals," she said. "As a water watcher, your focus is on the children who are in and around the pool, river, lake or ocean. As a water watcher, you should not have any distractions such as cell phones and reading material and, most importantly, you should avoid drinking alcoholic beverages before or while you're supervising children."

Another precaution is that parents should remove toys from areas near the water so their children won't be tempted to return to those locations.

Adults also have to follow safety guidelines when they're enjoying the water, Sergeant Lowe said.

She said adults should have a buddy system, know how to swim, know CPR, avoid alcohol use and not use air-filled or foam toys in place of life jackets.

The weather is another important consideration, Sergeant Lowe said.

"It is important to know the local weather conditions, especially when strong winds, thunderstorms and lightning are around natural bodies of water," she said. "Weather conditions can affect the water by causing dangerous waves and rip currents that move away from the shore."