wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Most Read: Lifestyle

Trove link goes here

Live Online Discussions

12:00 PM Dr. Gridlock
2:00 PM Talk about Travel

Weekly schedule, past shows

On Parenting
Posted at 03:52 PM ET, 06/23/2011

Water safety for kids, lifeguard checklist for parents

As I’ve previously mentioned, I have some anxiety when it comes to my girls and water. With sweltering weather like we had this week, I’ve got to get over it.

That does not mean, however, that I’ll ever be at ease when my kids are swimming or that I’ll read an article like the one I just did and not want to spam everyone I know with it.

Bear with me and take a look at the excerpt
Keanan Wright of Harrisonburg flips off the diving board at Westover Park swimming pool. (Nikki Fox - Associated Press)
below from “Good Guard Bad Guard,” by Mario Vittone, marine safety specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard in Norfolk, Va. Vittone maintains a superb Web site on water safety.

He is the author of last year’s much-forwarded and re-printed. “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.” That one has been translated into 13 different languages and “liked” on Facebook by more than 225,000 people.

If you haven’t read the drowning piece, please do.

Vittone had originally planned for his site to focus on boating safety, but soon found an audience with parents. The vast majority of his readership now, he told me, is comprised of women with two children.

Perhaps then I’m not alone in fearing water? “It’s not that swimming is bad and unsafe. It’s that there’s a way to do it safely,” he said.

“Good Guard Bad Guard,” which he posted this month, makes a compelling case that even the best lifeguards cannot maintain vigilant concentration for more than 30 minutes. “The first step to avoid drowning is when you drop off the kid at the pool. You have to know who the lifeguard is,” he said.

In the piece, Vittone provides his personal checklist for relying on a lifeguard. Here it is:

1. At least two lifeguards, or one guard and a supervisor or other staff member (helper) to keep everyone out of the water while the guard takes a real break.

2. The guard gets a real break every 30 minutes.

3. The guard knows to change his point of view of the pool often, never staying in the same spot for too long. Staying in the same spot decreases his attention span.

4. Minimal distractions for the guard: No wires in his ears (MP3 players), no chatting with anyone, no eating while watching the water.

5. I ask the guard to show me his cell phone. If he can without standing up and walking inside to get it — he’s fired. I’ll watch my own kids, thanks. If you see your lifeguard texting while he or she is supposed to be watching the pool, you do not have a lifeguard on duty.

6. In larger pools, multiple guards should rotate chairs or positions every 15 minutes. Again, changing the view is better for the attention span.

7. The guard has constant access to water (dehydration effects brain function) and is protected from sun exposure as much as practical.

8. The guard on duty is experienced. The Red Cross age requirement to be a “certified lifeguard” is 15. 15! Yes, they have to start sometime, but personally I am not prepared to make the life and death thinking the sole responsibility of a 15-year-old, for their sake as much as anyone’s. They can work with and support veteran while they gain experience and actually see some distress vs. drowning scenarios first.

— from “Good Guard Bad Guard,” by Mario Vittone.

Is Vittone’s advice overkill? Do you have your own lifeguard checklist?

By  |  03:52 PM ET, 06/23/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company