Off The Press

June 23, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Chantelle Lusebrink Press Reporter

Chantelle Lusebrink Press Reporter

Cool off this summer, but be water smart

For years, I was a lifeguard at Pine Lake on the Sammamish Plateau and if there’s one thing I always worried about when school let out, it was water safety and the times I was off duty.

Taking years of experience and at least 100 hours of training and classes, lifeguards are essential to keeping people safe in the water — children and adults.It may come out as simple rules spouted through a megaphone, like “No diving in the shallow end” or “No running on the dock,” but they are rules that keep you and others around you safe and prevent injuries.

However, no matter what we did during the day, after hours or unsupervised swimming beaches and pools were disconcerting.

At 6:45 every evening, a host of children and adults would wait, counting down the minutes for the lifeguards to go off duty so they could dive off guard stands, push each other from the dock or jump into the deep end without having to take a swim test.

At least once every summer, we’d hear of an accident involving a swimmer at our lake long after it had closed. There were many more stories from lakes and beaches without lifeguard supervision.

In Washington, 104 people drowned in 2005; 19 of those were younger than 18.

Drowning is also the second leading cause of childhood death in the state, according to the Washington State Drowning Prevention Network.

Children under age 5, males between 15 and 24, and those older than 65 are the most at risk for drowning, according to the state’s Department of Health.

It’s my sincere hope that parents and children will read this column together, learning just a few things that will hopefully protect them and make them responsible swimmers. Check out these tips from Seattle Children’s Hospital:

Make sure it’s supervised

-Swim in areas with lifeguards.

-Keep constant watch of children when they are in the water.

-Stay within reach of young children at all times.

-Have adults take turns watching children at social events.

-Never use alcohol or drugs during water and boating activities, or while supervising children in the water.

Wear a lifejacket

-When you’re in a boat, raft or inner tube.

-When you’re swimming in open water, like a lake, river or ocean.

-When playing in or near water and on docks.

-Make sure your lifejacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.

Learn to swim

-If you don’t know how to swim well, find someone to teach you — a friend, a lifeguard, or a swim instructor.

-Learn to float and to tread water for at least 10 minutes.

-Upgrade children’s swimming lessons each year.

-Find lessons at your local pool or guarded beach.

Know the water

-Don’t jump or dive unless you know it’s safe.

-Make sure the water is safe by looking in and exploring the depth.

-Check for hidden objects, like currents, water plants, rocks or other debris.

-Be aware that cold water can kill you, even on hot summer days. Cold water can easily give you hypothermia.

-Stay close to shore and rest if you are cold or tired.

What to do in an emergency

-Learn adult, child and infant CPR.

-Bring a cell phone with you or know where to find the nearest phone.

-Dial 911 in an emergency.

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment on this story at

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