Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Spreading Water Safety Awareness in Your Community

As the busy season clicks into gear, it can be easy to focus entirely on facility programs and staff management. While meeting the demands of the summer months, don’t forget the importance of water safety education within your community. As professionals in the aquatics industry, it can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming the public knows what we know about water safety. The annual rates for fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents indicate that the community could benefit from drowning prevention education and overall water safety awareness.

SAI recently addressed the topic water safety promotion with a group of program and facility managers to see what is being done for within communities. The most popular method for community engagement was to work with the school systems and other community programs, such as summer camps. Targeting the school system does not mean you are limited to giving presentations to a classroom full of students. There are a variety of methods for reaching school-aged children, such as:
  • Invite schools or camps to your facility for an engaging water safety lesson. Teach the students not only the importance of water safety but also practical tips for how to stay safe.
  • Have a booth at local festivals. Make your booth engaging for both children and adults to interact with you about water safety.

Reaching out to schools and camps for water safety education is a popular method for engaging with the community, and it is a way to directly reach a very vulnerable population. There are options that require less time away from your facility, however.
  • Consider participating in existing collaborative events, such as The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL). Events like the WLSL not only bring community awareness to water safety and the benefits of swim lessons, but such events also promote your facility as a resource within your community.
  • If feasible, provide scholarships for swim lessons so every child is afforded the opportunity to learn how to swim.

The idea of running a separate program for the sake of community education may seem daunting. There are smaller, everyday, approaches that if implemented could have a large effect on the education of the public.
  • Ensure that parents know the water safety rules that are enforced at the pool and during swim lessons. Encourage parents to use the same rules anytime they and their child is near water.
  • Post water safety tips in clear areas that can be seen in your facility.
  • Include strategies to stay safe in newsletters or emails that are received by members of your community.

As aquatics professionals who have a heightened sense of water safety, it can be tempting to take for granted that every parent is in tune to what will help his or her child stay safe. The truth is, many children and adults don’t think about the need for water safety until an incident occurs. Drowning is an epidemic that goes beyond our individual facilities. As aquatics professionals, it is our duty to equip the community with knowledge that could save lives beyond our pools.