Swimming safety urged as temps rise

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - As temperatures start to heat up, pools across the River Region will open up as well. The outdoor pool at the Bell Road YMCA will open on Monday, but they say before you dive in, it's important to remember - safety first.

Every day, ten people die from accidental drowning. Even though you may hear about those accidents after the fact, you might not hear them as they're happening!

"A lot of people think that drownings are a lot of thrashing around and swimming but they're actually a very quiet circumstance that happens. So generally what happens is you have people who either don't know how to swim or are not reacquainted with the water right before a pool opens," said Lara Lewis with the YMCA of Greater Montgomery.

That's what the Montgomery YMCA offers year-round swimming lessons. And they're not just for kids. People of all ages can participate.

"We highly encourage all of the children and families in the community to get reacquainted with the water just before the pools open and get signed up for swimming lessons," Lewis said. "Whether it's getting acquainted with the water, bettering your skill sets. Let's say, learning some turn strokes. Learning how to dive and things of that nature. Or if you're an adult whose never really learned how to swim, we have tons of classes at all times of day and in the evening that can really coach you and get you ready for the water."

They say it's never too early or too late to learn how to swim and stay safe in the process.

"We recommend that children swim in pairs, that they find themselves in situations where there is a lifeguard present, and of course, we do encourage families, parents of children to become acquainted with water and learn how to swim themselves," Lewis explained.

That's especially important because a surprising number of people don't know how to swim, some because of fear, others because of a history of pool segregation.

"Seventy percent of African-Americans don't know how to swim. And that's due to a history of not having access to a pool or a long history of family members maybe not knowing how to swim and then transferring that on generationally to children. They are at a very large risk for drowning," Lewis said.

According to the CDC, black children are also five and a half times more likely to drown than white children. They also say drowning kills more children one to four than anything else except birth defects.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently launched the Pool Safely Pledge.  It's a checklist that adults can use to commit to a safe swim season.

It calls for adults to: Designate a water watcher every single time children in their care are in or near the water; Make sure kids in their care know how to swim; Learn CPR; and ensure that all pools have a proper fence, gate, and safe drain covers.

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