June 13, 2017
Outdoor temperatures have spiked into the 90s and beaches are filling up, with swimming pools soon to follow suit. For area lifeguards, firefighters and emergency room workers, the start of another summer means crossing fingers and hoping against hope that the warm weather months are not marked by drowning.
Accidental water deaths all too often claim young victims who typically and tragically drown in swimming pools and ponds, yards, if not feet, away from people who could save them.
Tragedies happen and accidents are seemingly inevitable. But drowning deaths often seem more avoidable for the simple reason that many victims lacked swimming and water safety skills.
It is classified as a sport, but swimming is also a survival skill as important as learning how to cross a street safely and developing strong, common-sense intuition about strangers. Swimming lessons teach strokes, kicks, proper flotation and breathing. But the fundamental lesson they really teach is eliminating fear of the water and overcoming the natural instinct to panic underwater.
People have survived being stranded in the ocean for hours, even days. Drowning deaths occur within seconds because someone who can’t swim panics instead of rolling onto their back and calmly floating until help arrives.
Lack of supervision is responsible for drownings involving very young children. But older children, teenagers, and adults die because no one took the time to teach them how to swim or assess a swimming location before jumping. The Lynn YMCA is dedicated to reducing and eliminating the legacy of fatal ignorance with free swimming lessons for Breed Middle School students on Saturdays.
The next round of lessons begins June 19 and runs through August 27. The lessons may inspire future Olympians or endurance swimmers, but their primary purpose is to make kids comfortable in the water and teach them aquatic common sense.
Cities and towns supplemented with state financial assistance should combine forces to expand swimming lesson opportunities and promote lessons aimed at children and adults. The North Shore by definition borders the ocean and ponds and swimming pools are natural hot weather recreation destinations.
Every person who learns how to swim is a swimmer who is on his/her way to learning water life-saving techniques. Every novice swimmer is a future advanced swimmer capable of safely teaching someone else to swim.
Summer officially begins in a week and now is the time for public and school officials and for parents to make summer 2017 a tragedy-free season dedicated to ensuring time spent in the water is fun and safe.
Huge progress has been made through public relations campaigns to reduce driving fatalities and fire deaths. The same progress can be achieved in reducing, even eliminating, drowning deaths. The goal is achievable one stroke at a time.